Novant Health Inc. said Tuesday that 1.4% of its overall workforce, or 375 employees, face job termination for failing to comply with its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination program.
The health care system said those 375 employees work across 15 hospitals, 800 clinics and hundreds of outpatient facilities.
Novant unveiled its mandatory vaccination policy on July 22, saying at the time it would require full compliance by Sept. 15. The affected 375 employees are not being allowed to work, Novant said.
“They will have an opportunity to comply over a five-day, unpaid suspension period,” the system said in a news release. “If a team member remains non-compliant after this suspension period, he or she will have their employment with Novant Health terminated.”
Novant said 98.6% of its more than 35,000 employees are in compliance. The system has about 8,145 employees in Forsyth County.
Novant considers employees compliant if they have received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.
Employees with just one Moderna or Pfizer dose have until Oct. 15 to get the second dose.
An undisclosed number of employees were granted medical or religious exemptions from being fully vaccinated. Exempt employees are required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing and wear N95 respirator masks or other appropriate personal protective equipment and eye-wear protection while working.
“These added safety measures are in place to ensure patient and team member safety and preserve staffing levels,” the system said.
Other Triad systems
Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist could not be immediately reached for an update on their workforce vaccination status.
The three Triad health care systems have said that between 90% and 94% of their current COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations involve individuals who are not vaccinated or are immunocompromised.
Cone said Tuesday it kept a July 30 deadline for beginning the vaccination requirement and an Oct. 8 deadline for submitting proof of vaccination.
Baptist and parent company Atrium have set an Oct. 31 deadline.
Those systems also have said there will be some exceptions for medical and religious reasons. Those systems have not disclosed what actions, if any, they would take with employees who decline to be fully vaccinated.
Baptist has more than 19,000 employees, including about 14,000 in Forsyth. Cone has about 13,000 employees systemwide.
“We view this vaccine no differently than our requirement for our teammates to get an annual flu shot, as well as be vaccinated for measles, chicken pox and other infectious diseases,” Atrium and Wake Forest Baptist said in a July statement.
The N.C. Healthcare Association says its board of trustees backs the initiative.
Raleigh TV station WRAL reported Tuesday that at least 60 UNC Health employees have quit their jobs rather than get the COVID-10 vaccine. More than 1,400 unvaccinated employees are considered as on probation and have until Nov. 2 to get their first dose.
"We never anticipated that we would be standing outside UNC Medical Center the evening of [Sept.] 21 asking people to turn in their ID badges," Dr. Matt Ewend, chief clinical officer for UNC Health, told WRAL. "There would always be a period where there would be consequences but where folks would have a chance to correct their actions and become compliant and stay with us.”
WRAL also reported that 345 out of 23,000 Duke Health employees are not in compliance with its vaccination deadline. Duke Health did not disclose how many of those employees have quit.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s health secretary, has praised the health care systems for “leading the way (in) requiring vaccination for employees, for taking action to protect the healthcare workforce, their patients, our communities and the state.”
The common theme in the statements from Cone, Novant and Atrium Wake Forest Baptist is that the mandates are necessary to address the challenge of employees declining or being hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Since the COVID-19 vaccine first arrived at Novant Health, we have been working diligently to overcome vaccine hesitancy among our team members,” Novant said.
“These efforts include holding weekly forums to address individual concerns and common misconceptions, making the vaccine convenient and accessible, and providing continuous updates on the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.”
Baptist mentioned the highly contagious nature of the delta variant as a primary factor in mandating employees being fully vaccinated.
“By making the vaccine mandatory … we are taking reasonable steps to make sure that our teammates — many of whom remain on the frontlines, interacting directly with people who have COVID — are protected and available to care for members of the community as we deal with the next phases of the pandemic,” Baptist said.