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Houston Methodist suspends 178 unvaccinated employees

CEO Dr. Marc Boom said 27 of the 178 have received the first of a two-dose vaccine and won’t be fired if they get their second. The rest are subject to termination.

HOUSTON — A Houston hospital has suspended 178 employees for two weeks without pay for not complying with demands that they be vaccinated against COVID-19.

In a Tuesday memo, Houston Methodist Hospital system chief executive Marc Boom said 24,947 employees complied with the vaccination requirement and that 27 of the 178 have received the first of a two-dose vaccine and won’t be fired if they get their second. The rest are subject to termination.

The memo says 285 other employees received medical or religious exemptions, and 332 were deferred for pregnancy or other reasons.

The hospital system has been sued by 117 unvaccinated employees for requiring vaccinations as a condition of employment. Employees had a June 7 deadline to complete their immunization.

Below is the full statement from Dr. Boom:

"Congratulations to all! As of today, we are nearly 100% compliant with our COVID-19 vaccine mandate with 24,947 of us being fully vaccinated. Houston Methodist is officially the first hospital system in the country to achieve this goal for the benefit of its patients.

"Yesterday marked the deadline to be fully compliant, and I want to personally thank you and update you on where we stand now. We had only 178 full-time or part-time employees who did not get fully vaccinated or were not granted an exemption or deferral. Of these employees, 27 have received one dose of vaccine, so I am hopeful they will get their second doses soon. Of our employees, 285 received a medical or religious exemption, and 332 were granted deferrals for pregnancy and other reasons.

"The small percentage of employees who did not comply with the policy are now suspended without pay for the next 14 days. We won’t have the final numbers for two weeks as employees can still get vaccinated with their second dose or with the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. I wish the number could be zero, but unfortunately, a small number of individuals have decided not to put their patients first.

"I couldn’t be prouder of all of you as I know that for some, this was a very difficult decision. I want to personally thank you for choosing to get vaccinated. You did the right thing. You protected our patients, your colleagues, your families, and our community. The science proves that the vaccines are not only safe, but necessary if we are going to turn the corner against COVID-19. The mRNA technology behind the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines isn’t new or experimental. It’s been around for many years. With more than 300 million doses distributed in the United States alone, the vaccines have proven to be extremely safe. The number of both positive cases and hospitalizations continue to drop around the country, too, proving the vaccines’ efficacy.

"While we celebrate this remarkable accomplishment, I know that today may be difficult for some who are sad about losing a colleague who’s decided to not get vaccinated. We only wish them well and thank them for their past service to our community, and we must respect the decision they made.

"Since I announced this mandate in April, Houston Methodist has been challenged by the media, some outspoken employees and even sued. As the first hospital system to mandate COVID-19 vaccines we were prepared for this. The criticism is sometimes the price we pay for leading medicine. As of today, several other major health care centers have followed our lead and have announced their own vaccine mandates, with many more to follow soon.

"Seven years ago I introduced the “six words” into our culture – unparalleled safety, quality, service and innovation. At that time, we made the commitment to become the number 1 health care system in the world. You can’t say you’re going to be unparalleled and then not be willing to do the things to actually make you unparalleled. Even when those things are difficult.

"This decision was ultimately made for our patients, as they are at the center of everything we do at Houston Methodist. It should bring you great satisfaction to know that your actions will help keep patients as safe as possible when they come to us for care. You have fulfilled your sacred obligation as health care workers, and we couldn’t ask for more dedicated, caring and talented employees. Thank you."