N.J. health system fires 118 workers for refusing to get vaccinated

RWJBarnabas Health has fired more than 100 workers for refusing to get vaccinated.

A spokeswoman said Monday that 118 employees had been terminated for failing to comply with the health system’s deadline to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. They had until Friday to get immunized.

“Regrettably, and despite all best efforts, 118 staff members have not complied with the mandate and are no longer employees of RWJBarnabas Health, per our vaccine mandate policy,” a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “Sixty-two of those staff members were per-diem employees who worked occasional shifts across our organization.”

RWJBarnabas, which has 35,000 employees and operates 11 acute care hospitals in the state, said 99.7% of its staff had been vaccinated or granted an exemption or deferral as of Friday.

“At RWJBarnabas Health, we have an ethical and professional responsibility to protect our patients and ensure a safe, COVID-19 free environment,” the statement said. “It is for that reason that we expanded our vaccine mandate to include all staff members and physicians, and established a deadline of October 15, 2021 for completion.”

The health system said it anticipated some refusals, and therefore “took steps to proactively recruit for positions deemed at-risk for vacancy.”

RWJBarnabas also said, “Given the overall number of staff who have been separated from the organization is distributed across our numerous facilities, job types and work shifts, patient care will not be affected nor will there be any impact on the normal operations of our services.”

RWJBarnabas has taken a hard stance with its employee vaccine policy. In July, the health system fired six supervisory employees for not getting vaccinated, per its managerial policy at the time.

Other health systems have implemented vaccine mandates for workers, including Hackensack Meridian Health, University Hospital in Newark and Virtua Health in South Jersey. (The vaccine deadline for Hackensack Meridian Health employees is Nov. 15.)

Other hospitals have taken measures to ensure compliance. In early September, University Hospital terminated five employees after they were caught submitting counterfeit vaccination cards as proof of immunization.

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Spencer Kent may be reached at [email protected].