MUSC terminates 5 employees who did not get COVID-19 vaccine

Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 11:50 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 14, 2021 at 12:41 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - MUSC Health officials confirmed Wednesday that five employees have been fired from the hospital system for not receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in accordance with a new policy established in April.

“Five individuals within MUSC Health were separated from the organization due to noncompliance. Employees were provided notification in April that this policy was going into place, with leaders and new hires going first, followed by everyone else in the organization ultimately needing to be vaccinated by June 30,” MUSC Public Affairs Director Health Woolwine said.

Officials said the terminations were a last resort for noncompliance.

The first phase started on April 14 and included all current MUSC health leaders and new hire care team members.

According to MUSC, care team members that qualified for medical or religious exemptions were not expected to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

MUSC Health officials said the policy was meant to reduce the direct threat of COVID-19 to their care team members, patients and the community.

In April, MUSC Health released the following additional information:

Why establish this policy?

Increase Care Team Safety – While the number of COVID-19 cases is going down in most areas, virus variants are spreading across the world and people are returning en masse to normal activities. Since the MUSC Health care team is a microcosm of the community, the likelihood of coming down with COVID-19 increases - for our care team members. Vaccination is the most effective means of blunting the spread of the virus and its variants.

Increase the safety of our patients – For the same reasons that apply to our care team, patients also become more at risk. For us to optimize patient safety, we must have higher vaccination rates across MUSC Health. Large numbers of patients are NOT coming to health care facilities because of our care team members lower vaccination rates. We must provide an environment where patients feel safe to receive care and where we can carry out our mission.

Increase the safety of our patients’ family and visitors – Finally, after more than a year of restrictive visiting policies, widespread vaccination will allow these individuals to accompany and support our patients. As the risk rises for our care team and patients, it also puts families and visitors at risk. High vaccination rates combat this risk.

Attorney Paul Derrick said public employers such as MUSC are completely in their legal right to require vaccines. He said this is because companies are required to protect the health and safety of all employees. Both private and public employers could argue having everybody vaccinated against COVID would do just that.

Officials with MUSC Health said after much deliberation it was decided to make an expectation that all care team members be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Given the current pandemic, the CDC’s strong recommendation, and the reported safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, the impact and importance of this policy will be critical to our operations,” MUSC said in a statement.

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