Hundreds Walk Away From Jobs at Detroit Hospital System Over Vaccination Mandate

About 400 employees at a health care system in Detroit resigned from their positions instead of getting vaccinated against COVID-19, officials with Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) said Tuesday.

HFHS, Detroit's fifth-largest employer with an estimated 33,000 employees, announced in June it would require all employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The requirement covered full-time staff members, as well as volunteers, students and contractors, the health system said at the time.

Dr. Adnan Munkarah, the executive vice president and chief clinical officer at HFHS, said that requiring employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 was "in the best interest of our patients and members, our team members, and the communities we serve."

By mid-September, HFHS said an estimated 98 percent of its employees were in compliance with the vaccine requirement. The other 2 percent were suspended and given until October 1 to get vaccinated.

Henry Ford Health Systems
About 400 workers at Henry Ford Health Systems were noncompliant with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate as of Tuesday, officials told reporters. Above, the Henry Ford Hospital is photographed on April 8, 2020, in Detroit, Michigan. Elaine Cromie/Getty Images

Bob Riney, the president of healthcare operations and chief operating officer at HFHS, said during a Tuesday news conference he was "elated and extremely proud" to report that more than 99 percent of HFHS employees had been vaccinated. About 1,900 additional employees—about 6 percent of HFHS' workforce—had received approval for medical or religious exemptions from the mandate, he said. HFHS denied an estimated 250 religious exemptions requests, according to Munkarah.

Meanwhile, an additional 1 percent of HFHS' workforce were not in compliance with the vaccine mandate as of Tuesday, Riney told reporters.

"About 400 people have voluntarily resigned from their positions at Henry Ford because of the vaccine requirement over the last couple of months," he said.

Individuals who leave HFHS due to the vaccine mandate are classified as voluntary resignations, Riney said. In the event that those individuals decide to get vaccinated against the virus, they will be able to request a return to work with HFHS, he added.

"Should they have a change of heart down the road, and become vaccinated, they can once again apply for jobs within Henry Ford," Riney said. "We're doing everything we can to keep the doors open and welcoming for those team members."

About 30 employees who were initially noncompliant with HFHS' vaccine mandate already had that "change of heart" and were seeking re-engagement with the health system, Riney said.

At the time HFHS announced its vaccine mandate for employees, it reported there were an estimated 20 patients battling COVID-19 in its facilities. Around this time last year, 65 patients were hospitalized at HFHS facilities with the virus, according to Munkarah. By Tuesday, 144 patients were battling the virus in HFHS facilities.