Community Health workers lose jobs for refusing shots

Four workers at Community Health Network were fired for refusing flu shots.
Published: .
Updated: .

Eyewitness News has learned more health care workers have lost their jobs for refusing to get the flu vaccine, a brand new requirement at the hospitals where they work.

The four workers at Community Health Network join eight employees with Indiana University Health Goshen Hospital who were fired for taking the same stand, saying no to a flu shot that became mandatory this year.

"I was thinking, 'Can I just go ahead and do the flu shot anyway?' and I thought, 'No, I can't do that, because it's going in my body and I should have a right'," said Ethel Hoover, a former Goshen Hospital employee.

Employees rights aren't the issue, though, said the Indiana Coalition for Patient Safety.

"We're putting patient's safety first," said Carol Birk with the coalition.

When the coalition made the recommendation this year that the flu shot be mandatory for all health care workers, they looked at national numbers, which suggested that was the way to get everyone on board.

"Health care workers who are receiving the vaccination under a voluntary basis, compliance might be anywhere from 50-60 percent. Whereas by mandating it, health systems had been able to achieve a compliance rate exceeding 95 percent," explained Birk.

The only exception to not get the shot was for health reasons, like an allergy to the vaccine or for religious reasons. In both cases, employees were required to get a signed waiver saying why they couldn't receive the vaccine.

"What we found is that health care workers, as with anyone in the general population, could actually have the flu and not know it for approximately 24 hours and so the potential to spread the flu virus to patients is quite significant," said Birk.

This year IU Health, Community Health Network and Wishard Hospital all made flu shots mandatory for their employees. St. Francis went mandatory last year. Only St. Vincent and the VA have not required flu vaccines for employees this year.