SAN DIEGO — Thursday was the deadline for all health care workers in California to be fully vaccinated, and that means some hospitals already struggling with staffing shortages will face an even tighter squeeze.
At Rady Children’s Hospital, dozens of workers will no longer hold their frontline positions. The hospital said it received 201 requests for medical or religious exemptions, but rejected 128 of them because they involved workers that interact directly with patients, FOX 5 partner San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
“After consideration of the risks to the patients we serve, we have made the decision that unvaccinated staff cannot be in a role that involves patient contact,” the hospital said in a statement to FOX 5. “We care for vulnerable patients who are largely unvaccinated and we need to take steps to protect this patient population.”
Some health workers at the hospital said it’s not their fault Rady’s is now dealing with a worsened staff shortage.
“It’s Rady’s who’s choosing not to honor my religious exemption and continue to care for the children of this community,” said one nurse, Tawny, who did not want to give her last name.
The hospital says unvaccinated staff will have the option to work in a role that doesn’t involve direct patient care, or they can request a short-term leave of absence.
But Tawny said that she wasn’t convinced workers could find a job they’re qualified for, and that they might ultimately lose their positions entirely. “Our job is not protected, and if we cannot find anything within that six month period of time, then we are voluntarily giving up our job,” she told FOX 5.
Union leadership has tried to push members to get their shots.
“We encourage folks to get vaccinated,” said R.N. Charmaine Morales from the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP), which represents 32,000 healthcare workers. “I know there’s personal choice. Respect that. But the more folks that are vaccinated will be able to get in there and you know continue providing that care.”
“The more folks in the facilities providing care leads to better outcomes, always,” Morales said. “This is a tough time.”
Unvaccinated health care workers say they plan to hold a rally at Rady Children’s Hospital from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday.