MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KION) Monterey County hospitals are working to comply with a fast-approaching deadline for all California healthcare workers to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
In August, the California Department of Public Health issued an order requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for healthcare workers, unless they receive a valid exemption. Workers risk losing their jobs over the requirement.
Montage Health, which runs the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, said 95% of their 3,250 employees and medical staff have been vaccinated. Two percent of their workers have applied for an exemption.
"If our employees don't have the vaccine by September 30th and they have not applied for an exemption, then they will be going through our regular process for if they didn't receive any other sort of certification that's required for their job," said Monica Sciuto, spokesperson for Montage Health.
Elisabeth Sims said she has been a registered nurse at CHOMP for the past 4 years, working through the COVID-19 pandemic. She said she applied for a pregnancy deferral, which was approved. She also submitted a religious exemption for after her maternity leave.
"I think it was like 10 days later, HR had gotten back to me and said, by the way, we are rescinding our prior approval for your pregnancy deferral and we are also declining your religious exemption," said Sims.
Montage said pregnant employees were given the option to take a medical leave of absence, but they must be fully vaccinated before returning to work after their maternity leave.
About 60 workers said they are threatening to sue over what they're calling "wrongful termination."
"It's so much less about the vaccine itself than it is about the actual ethical and moral boundaries that they are overstepping right now," said Sims.
CHOMP believes about 2.5% of their workers will refuse to get the vaccine by the deadline. They are currently working to fill any positions.
"Across the nation, recruiting certain types of health care workers has always been difficult, and it continues to be. We do see that we will have some workers who will, unfortunately, leave us due to this mandate. And we do have plans to try to fill those spots," said Sciuto.
CHOMP said they are working closely with the other hospitals in Monterey County.
So far, Natividad Medical Center in Salinas said 89.7% of their employees are fully vaccinated.
Salinas Valley Memorial said 96% of their 2,050 employees have been vaccinated, and they expect more to receive theirs in the coming days.