Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.
Northwell Health, the largest hospital system in New York state, fired 1,400 employees on Monday for not complying with the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The employees represented less than 2% of Northwell’s 76,000 employees, who are now all fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Joe Kemp, the assistant vice president of public relations for the company, told The Hill.
“Northwell Health is proud to announce that our workforce — the largest in New York State — is 100% vaccinated,” the company said in a statement to several news outlets.
“This allows us to continue to provide exceptional care at all of our facilities, without interruption and remain open and fully operational,” Northwell Health said.
Having a fully vaccinated workforce is part of the health system’s duty to protect others, the company said. Northwell Health includes 23 hospitals and more than 830 outpatient facilities, according to ABC News.
“Northwell regrets losing any employee under such circumstances,” the company said. “We owe it to our staff, our patients and the communities we serve to be 100% vaccinated against COVID-19.”
Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in August that the state would require health care workers to receive at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot by Sept. 27. Employees didn’t have the option for weekly testing or religious exemptions, which is being challenged in several lawsuits, according to The New York Times.
The order went into effect last week, prompting tens of thousands of employees to get vaccinated. As of last week, 87% of hospital staff were fully vaccinated, and 92% of hospital and retirement home workers had received at least one dose, according to state health data.
Northwell announced its own vaccine mandate in August as well, which sparked protests among some workers. The order applied to both clinical and non-clinical staff.
A few thousand Northwell employees got vaccinated as the deadline approached, Kemp told The New York Times. Some who lost their jobs at first were able to return to work, and those who have been terminated can interview for reinstatement for 30 days. The hospital system is also “openly recruiting” for the vacant positions.
“The goal was to get people vaccinated, not to get people terminated,” Kemp said.
Hospitalized COVID-19 patients in New York hit a low of 350 in mid-July, according to state hospitalization data. Now, about 2,200 people are hospitalized throughout the state, most of whom are unvaccinated.
As of Monday, nearly 72% of New York residents had received at least one vaccine dose, according to the latest state data. About 64% are fully vaccinated.
The Hill: “Largest New York health care provider fires 1,400 employees over vaccine refusal.”
ABC News: “New York’s largest private hospital system now 100% vaccinated.”
The New York Times: “New York’s largest health care provider fires 1,400 unvaccinated employees.”
New York State: “COVID-19 Vaccine: Hospital Worker Vaccinations,” “Daily Hospitalization Summary by Region,” “COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker.”