Essentia Fires Approximately 50 Who Refused Flu Shots

November 22, 2017 10:28 AM

Essentia Health has fired approximately 50 employees who refused to get a flu shot.

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The health care provider had set a Monday deadline for employees to get flu shots or receive an exemption for medical or religious reasons. The policy also applies to volunteers and construction workers. Hospital guests are excluded.

Officials with Essentia say they initially notified employees of the mandatory vaccinations in September. Since then, the provider says more than 99 percent of employees complied by receiving shots, or had a medical or religious exemption. Infectious Disease Physician, Rajesh Prabhu, said many still have exemption requests that are pending. 

"As for the 50 people, all employees are important. They all play a valuable role within the organization, so no matter what their role in the organization is, we did not want this to occur. That was why we had this major education effort on why the flu vaccine was important," said Prabhu.

Prabu says the reason the hospital went this way was to protect patients.

"When you're in the hospital you don't want to catch any other types of infections," said Prabhu.

He said the other workers who are still in the process will continue to work at Essentia until their exemptions are reviewed and either granted or denied.

The Minnesota Nurses Association said Monday that it will file grievances in an effort to win back the jobs of any nurses who are fired.

Many employees are represented by the United Steelworkers, and the union had asked a judge to issue an injunction to block the requirement, but the judge declined.


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