While Wellstar Health System officials remain mum on the number of staff who have resigned or been terminated over the employer’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, Wellstar says its deadline for full vaccination has been extended.
Wellstar spokeswoman Suzanne Forte said the health system modified its vaccine policy in mid-September so that employees who received one dose of a two-part COVID-19 vaccine by the Oct. 1 deadline would continue to be paid and employed by Wellstar, as long as they received their second dose by Nov. 1.
Previously, the deadline for all Wellstar employees to be fully vaccinated was Oct. 1.
“Now that our initial deadline has passed, we have begun the process of confirming vaccination status and communicating with team members who appear to have not met the initial requirement,” she said. “We will provide additional details after we complete this important step.”
Forte did not answer specific questions about who could receive exemptions for medical or religious reasons.
A pair of Wellstar nurses newly unemployed after refusing to take the vaccine, however, noted at the Cobb GOP’s monthly breakfast on Saturday that they’d sought religious exemptions and been denied.
One, Renee Hendricks, a 39-year NICU nurse at Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, said she told her boss that she’d be seeking a religious exemption and would quit if it wasn’t granted.
After the chief nursing officer spent 45 minutes in vain trying to change her mind, she was fired, she said.
While Hendricks didn’t say why she didn’t believe in the shot, her former colleague, Amanda Carey, did.
Carey said she has several underlying health conditions and that her own doctor had told her “it’d not be a good idea to get vaxxed,” but couldn’t give out a medical exemption because the practice had decided it simply wouldn’t be doing so.
Meanwhile, her request to Wellstar for a religious exemption was denied. Carey said she was told she’d be on administrative leave and that she’d be responsible for her own health benefits during that time.
“How am I going to see my cardiologist? How am I going to get my medicine? How is my son going to get his medicine?” she said at the GOP breakfast.
She then insisted she wasn’t anti-vaccine, simply pro-choice, making the comparison of vaccine mandates to a slow progression toward fascist dictatorship.
Unvaccinated people now make up the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths. A Georgia Department of Public Health report released last week found 94.5% of the approximately 10,000 Georgians killed by COVID-19 from Jan. 2 through Sept. 28 were unvaccinated.
As of Thursday, 86% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients at Wellstar Health System hospitals were unvaccinated.