One of New Jersey’s first hospital and health care networks to impose mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations among all its employees has fired 118 workers for refusing to get the shots, a spokeswoman for RWJBarnabas said Monday.
The 118 represent less than 1% of RWJBarnabas’s 35,000 workforce. The announcement comes three days after the network deadline for all employees to be fully vaccinated.
The firings occurred across the network’s 15 hospitals, 33 outpatient centers and dozens of other facilities. The dismissals will not affect care, said Linda Kamateh, an assistant vice president at RWJBarnabas.
Most major hospitals in New Jersey have enacted vaccine policies that are more strict than Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order that allows unvaccinated health care workers to keep their jobs as long as they get tested for COVID at least once a week.
Next up is the state’s other large health system, Hackensack Meridian Health, which has an employee deadline of Nov. 15. The number of employees let go will likely also be small — the network reported this month that more than 99% of its 36,000 employees are either fully vaccinated or have received their first shot.
Other hospitals and some long-term care facilities reported a sizeable uptick in vaccinations following the mandates.
However small the staff losses, they come during one of the worst workforce shortage the health care industry has experienced.
Kamateh said managers had anticipated some staff would not be in compliance and began recruiting to fill their positions. Of the 118 employees, 62 were per-diem employees who worked occasional shifts across the network, Kamateh said.
“Given the overall number of staff who have been separated from the organization is distributed across our numerous facilities, job types and work shifts, patient care will not be affected nor will there be any impact on the normal operations of our services,” Kamateh said in a statement.
In July, six managers lost their jobs at RWJBarnabas when they declined to get vaccinated.
RWJBarnabas hospitals include St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, Jersey City Medical Center, Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville, Community Medical Center in Toms River, Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch and its southern campus in Lakewood, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, and RWJ University Hospitals in Hamilton, Rahway and Somerset.
This story will be updated.
Scott Fallon has covered the COVID-19 pandemic since its onset in March 2020. To get unlimited access to the latest news about the pandemic’s impact on New Jersey, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.