CLEVELAND — All employees of MetroHealth – including contractors and volunteers – will be required to get COVID-19 vaccinations “for the safety of our patients,” the hospital system announced Thursday morning.
The deadline for vaccinations is Oct. 30, 2021. This means that all new and current employees “must be fully vaccinated or receive a medical or religious exemption” by that date. Those who refuse the vaccine, however, could face disciplinary actions – including termination – MetroHealth officials said.
“Protecting caregivers against COVID-19 is the right thing to do,” said MetroHealth President and CEO Akram Boutros, MD. “Our profession has been hailed as heroic because we were there when there was no protection from this disease. We cared for people and put ourselves at risk. We don’t have to do that anymore. We can and have to take care of our patients and ourselves.”
MetroHealth notes that more than 80 percent of their staff is already vaccinated. Now the last 20 percent have until the end of October to become fully vaccinated or risk losing their job.
"There will be exemptions for those who can't be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons, and like the flu vaccines, those who refuse will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination," Boutros added.
MetroHealth already mandates flu vaccines, as well as the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine as a condition of employment. Dr. Boutros says about 30 percent of Ohio hospitals already enacted vaccine mandates, and others will likely follow. The move is supported by various medical associations covering doctors and nurses including the Ohio Hospital Association.
"We don't take this decision lightly and we know we will lose some employees and we will be very sorry to see them go," Boutros said.
Boutros is not concerned about a staffing shortage, saying other hospitals that made mandates did not lose many employees.
"We work in a collaborative manner with other health systems so if there are staff shortages we'll work with them to make sure the community is receiving the care they need," Boutros said.
The mandate includes contractors, vendors and volunteers. Those who are resistant to vaccination will be talked to individually and given a chance to change their mind.
"Everybody who has made the decision not to get vaccinated has a reason and we will work with them, figure out the support that they need and we will help them hopefully reach the conclusion that they need to be vaccinated,” Boutros said.
At this time, Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and Mercy in Lorain are not mandating vaccines.
Like the flu vaccine, there will be exceptions for those who cannot be vaccinated based on medical or religious reasons.
“We stand united to keep our patients, staff and community safe by giving the best protection possible against COVID-19,” said Amy Ray, MD, Medical Director of Infection Prevention. “Every employee in our organization deserves the greatest protection available so that every patient who crosses our doors can be assured of safety.”