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Hospitals: You know, maybe firing unvaccinated staff isn't such a great idea after all

The Furnace
Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

Hundreds of thousands of hospital staff members — from nurses and doctors to janitors and receptionists — worked in hospital settings for nearly a year dealing with COVID patients while unvaxxed. They did their duty and were repeatedly heralded as heroes.

But after the vaccines came out, how were they treated by the same society and government that had just sung their praises?

President Joe Biden rewarded them by issuing a mandate that health care workers at facilities that take Medicare or Medicaid money would have to get vaxxed or hit the bricks.

And because many hospital systems across the U.S. were waiting for the government to act first to give them cover, they followed suit and issued their own mandates.

But it didn't work out as well as they'd hoped.

Hospitals, which were already facing labor shortages before the pandemic began, saw thousands of nurses exit instead of taking the jab, the Wall Street Journal reported. Add to that the fact that those hesitant to get the vaccine made up 30% of all staff, not just nurses, and you've got the makings of what experts call a "fustercluck."

Hospitals needed a way to get out from under their self-imposed staffing crisis created, at least in part, by their mandates. Enter the late-November federal court suspension of the feds' vax mandate.

After a federal judge temporarily blocked the mandate, the Journal reported, some of the nation's biggest hospital systems suddenly decided to drop their own ill-considered vaccine mandates.

HCA Healthcare, Tenet Healthcare Corp., AdventHealth, and the Cleveland Clinic all announced they are dropping their jab requirements, which had exacerbated the hospitals' cost of labor problems and caused all kinds of issues with staff retention, the paper said.

The Journal talked to employee benefits lawyer Wade Symons, who noted the "mass exodus" debacle and said facilities that don't have the vax requirements "could be a magnet" for health professionals looking to practice health care away from mandates.

Alan Levine, CEO of Ballad Health, which has 21 hospitals in Tennessee and Virginia with 14,000 employees, said the federal court did everybody a favor by stopping the mandate, the Journal said. According to Levine, his company had 2,000 folks unvaccinated, and he said that canning that many people "would have been devastating to our system."

HCA, which has one of the country's largest collections of hospitals with some 275,000 employees, announced last month that all of its workers would need to be vaxxed by the federal Jan. 4 deadline, but then suspended the oh-so-very-important vaccine policy after the court ruled against the Biden administration.

Other hospital systems are still holding fast to their jab mandates, though, the Journal said. Kaiser Permanente and New York's Northwell Health combined have let go of about 2,000 employees for refusing the jab, with many more on the chopping block should they not hit the deadline.

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