Massachusetts Hospitals Ramp Up Recruitment Efforts Ahead of Firing Unvaccinated Employees

Hospitals in Massachusetts are gearing up to terminate hundreds of employees who defied COVID-19 vaccination requirements implemented for patient safety, the Associated Press reported.

The Boston Globe reported that hospital officials across the state are not anticipating cuts to patient services, but are bolstering recruitment and retention efforts in case it is necessary to fill positions.

More than 95 percent of employees at the state's largest hospital system, Mass General Brigham, are vaccinated, according to executives, but roughly 4,000 of 74,000 employees have yet to receive their shots or provide proof of inoculation ahead of an October 15 deadline.

"This is a very difficult time for everyone, and we're trying to respond with what's best for our patients," Chief Human Resources Officer Rosemary Sheehan said. "That has been the beacon that has driven all of our decisions.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 28: Anti-vaccine protesters stage a protest outside of the San Diego Unified School District office to protest a forced vaccination mandate for students on September 28, 2021 in San Diego, California. The School District was holding a virtual hearing on whether to enact a mandate for students to receive at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

The goal of the vaccine mandate is to protect patients, Sheehan said, adding that she hopes the number of workers fired will be "hundreds and not close to a thousand."

At Beth Israel Lahey Health, 91 percent of the 35,000-member workforce has been vaccinated, but about 3,000 employees have yet to comply with an October 31 deadline.

CEO Dr. Kevin Tabb said he expects most will get shots by then, but a few hundred could lose their jobs.

Worcester-based UMass Memorial Health Care is giving employees until November 1 to get shots. So far, about 90 percent have been vaccinated, Spokesperson Tony Berry said. Terminations could affect patient care, Berry added. The system has about 13,000 workers.

"We will do everything we can to not have to resort to program closures, but ... we may have no other choice," he said.

The experience at some hospitals whose vaccination deadlines have passed shows that near-universal compliance is possible.

At the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, more than 99 percent of workers have been vaccinated, while 54 people have been suspended without pay for refusing the vaccine. They have two weeks to begin their vaccinations or leave their jobs, the hospital said.

More than 99 percent of the roughly 12,000 employees at Springfield-based Baystate Health also received their shots by the October 1 deadline, while 145 people were placed on leave and have two weeks to get vaccinated, officials said.