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MetroHealth suspends employees for not disclosing COVID-19 vaccination status

 Dr. Sherrie Williams was the first MetroHealth employee to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in December 2020.
Anna Huntsman
Ideastream Public Media
Dr. Sherrie Williams, a pulmonary critical care specialist, was the first MetroHealth employee to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in December 2020. MetroHealth announced Nov. 1, 2021, separation proceedings are set to begin in two weeks for five employees who have refused to comply with its vaccine mandate, but the vast majority of employees have complied.

Updated: 5:40 p.m., Monday, Nov. 1, 2021

Five MetroHealth employees have been suspended without pay for two weeks for not cooperating with the hospital’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement. 

The employees have not yet shared their vaccination status, according to a news release from the Cleveland health care system. 

Separation proceedings are set to begin in two weeks, but if the employees choose to get vaccinated or prove they already did, their status will be re-evaluated, according to the release. 

Hundreds of employees waited until the week before the Oct. 30 deadline to receive the vaccine or report their vaccination status, said Jane Platten, chief of staff at the hospital system. 

“I think in part … testing the waters. ‘Are they really going to suspend people? Is this very serious? Are they going to back off?’” she said. “I think that there was potentially, to the end, some hope that we would back off, and we didn’t.”  

In addition, 12 other employees have quit or retired due to the vaccination requirement over the past two months, Platten said. This was determined through comments the former employees made to their managers or was indicated to the human resources department in exit interviews, she added. 

Platten was not aware of the departments or positions of the employees who were suspended or quit. 

About 426 employees requested exemptions, which will be reviewed through the end of the year, Platten said. The exemptions are largely based on medical or religious grounds, and staff members who work in human resources or in employee health clinics will determine whether to grant them, she said. 

"If they are not granted the exemption, the expectation would be that they get vaccinated,” Platten said. “They will have two weeks to give us proof or confirmation of starting the vaccination process or having already been vaccinated." 

The vast majority of employees have either received the vaccine or requested an exemption, she said. 

Approximately 94 percent, or 7,269 out of 7,700 employees, are vaccinated, according to the release. 

“I am grateful for each and every member of our team who took this important step to protect the health of their colleagues, patients, families and the community during this once-in-a-generation pandemic,” MetroHealth president and CEO Dr. Akram Boutros said in the release. 

MetroHealth officials announced they would require employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or request an exemption back in August. ​At that time, more than 80 percent of employees were already vaccinated, officials said. It is the only major hospital system in Cleveland with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees. 

The requirement applies to all employees, including those who work remotely. The policy also includes vendors, contracted workers, volunteers, students and trainees. 
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