Credit: WINK News.

After deadline, NCH says 97.8% of staff fully vaccinated or have approved exemption

Thursday was the last day for NCH staff to become compliant with the health care system’s new COVID-19 vaccine requirement and the hospital system reports 97.8% of NCH staff are fully vaccinated or have an approved exemption.

Up until the end of day Thursday, those employees who had not taken previous action were still in the process of submitting verification of their vaccine status or submitting approved exemptions, according to NCH. Employees were given until the close of business Thursday to submit verification.

NCH previously said in a statement: ”

“All employees including prospective, newly hired, and/or onboarding employees, providers, contract staff, and volunteers must receive the COVID-19 vaccination, in full, by September 30, 2021 or within four (4) weeks of their date of hire as a condition of employment, unless otherwise exempted from this Policy by an approved accommodation (religious or medical exemption).”

On Friday it announced, “We have had the opportunity to process any exemptions and vaccine verifications that we received late yesterday and are happy to report that 97.8% of NCH staff are fully vaccinated or have an approved religious or medical exemption. That means that NCH offers the safest patient care environments in Southwest Florida with an extra level of protection that patients can feel good about if they find themselves or their loved ones in one of our hospitals or physician practices,” the company said in a statement.

69% of those who elected not to be vaccinated and have “voluntarily resigned” as of Thursday, were temporary staff and not considered core employees.

“NCH is proud to continue to offer large sign-on bonuses, free health insurance, and competitive salaries that have helped us in hiring and retaining personnel to ensure that we can continue our tradition of providing quality care and an exceptional patient experience for which we have been recognized for,” they added.

WINK News looks into what that classification of voluntarily resigning means for the rights and pay of those workers. NCH has not said that the nearly 108 employees that are out of a job were fired.

An attorney spoke to WINK News and said that businesses cannot force people to quit their jobs. And, WINK is learning that saying these employees quit instead of being fired could prevent them from collecting unemployment benefits.

WINK News asked attorney Robert Goodman if a private employer can fire its employees over something such as a vaccine mandate. He says yes. “They can terminate an employee that is an ‘at-will’, you know, not under contract with or without a reason,” said Goodman.

NCH said that any employee who did not follow its vaccine requirement would be voluntarily resigning.

“You can’t make me voluntarily go to a restaurant I don’t want to go to. You can make me go to that restaurant or you can tell me I’m not working for you anymore. Then you’ve terminated me. You’ve made the decision. But you can’t voluntarily make the decision for somebody else,” Goodman said.

Some agree that NCH is well within its rights to make this distinction. Duane Harvin is from South Carolina. “If your choice not to get vaccinated puts someone else at risk, I think companies are well within their right to do that,” Harvin said.

Others say they’d like to see the employees be eligible for and receive the benefits they may need to make ends meet. Carla McAuley lives in Naples. “Absolutely, because they’re getting fired. They’re not choosing to leave on their own,” McAuley said.

If you quit your job in the State of Florida, you may not qualify for unemployment benefits. However, Robert Goodman says those employees who are now out of a job, could still be approved for unemployment.

“I don’t think that somebody working at the claim… Department of Economic Opportunity, or DEO, which is Florida’s unemployment agency, I don’t know that it would pass the mustard. I would assume that the employee would get unemployment, even though they’re trying to say he resigned,” said Goodman.

WINK News reached out to NCH for more information about the classification of those employees and why they didn’t just fire those who weren’t in compliance with the vaccine requirement. NCH has not gotten back to us.

Reporter:Justin Kase
Writer:WINK News
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