North Carolina hospital system Novant Health to fire 175 employees who refused COVID vaccine mandate

North Carolina’s Novant Health is set to fire an estimated 175 employees this week after the group of medical professionals refused to comply with the hospital system’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. 

Less than 200 Novant Health employees out of more than 35,000 – spread across 15 hospitals and 800 locations statewide – opted to be noncompliant with the mandate, Megan Rivers, a spokeswoman for Novant Health, which is based in Winston Salem, North Carolina, said in an email to Fox News Digital. That means more than 99% of Novant Health employees were compliant with the vaccine mandate, according to the hospital system. 

“We are thrilled that the vast majority of team members gave Novant Health’s patients and visitors, as well as our team members, better protection against COVID-19 regardless of where they are in our health system,” Rivers said. 


“We have not had a major impact with staffing related to our vaccination program,” Dr. David H. Priest, Novant Health’s senior vice president and chief safety, quality and epidemiology office, said at a community briefing on Monday. “The most important thing we do is keeping patients safe. Our sacred responsibility is to make sure people are not harmed when they come into any of our facilities.” 

Priest dismissed critics of the vaccine mandate online, telling reporters, “Social media has a way of amplifying those voices.” 

“It doesn’t make sense to me that non-health care industries would mandate a vaccine and health care would not. Medical ethics is really important but not all medical ethics principles are equal,” he said. “The number one medical ethical principle is we do not cause harm to patients or certainly cause their death. It comes certainly before anything else. It comes before my personal choice.”  

“I think in the months ahead this is going to become a non-event,” Priest said of pushback to the vaccine mandate. “I think all of this angst about the vaccine and this small group of people that are against it – we have to work through that, but there was a little bit of that around polio vaccine. I’ll be glad when all of that dies down. And it will over time.”

Last week, about 375 Novant Health employees – across 15 hospitals, 800 clinics and hundreds of outpatient facilities – were confirmed to be noncompliant and were not able to report to work, Rivers said. Those who were noncompliant were given a five-day, unpaid suspension period to allow them time to get vaccinated. If still noncompliant after that window, their employment was to be terminated.

Over the five days, roughly 200 team members came into compliance. 

On Sept. 21, Novant Health said 98.6% of more than 35,000 team members were compliant with its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination program. Employees are considered compliant if they have received the following: the single dose Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine, a first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine – or if they applied for, and were granted, a medical or religious exemption. 

Employees who have started a two-dose vaccine series will have until Oct. 15 to get their second dose and remain in compliance, Rivers said.

Novant Health employees who have been granted a medical or religious exemption are required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing, wear N95 respirators masks or other appropriate PPE, and eye-wear protection while working on Novant Health premises, Rivers said. She declined to disclose how many employees were granted exemptions to the vaccine mandate. 

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