An Indiana hospital has fired eight employees, including a number of veteran nurses, for refusing to receive a flu shot.
In early September, Goshen reportedly informed its staff that flu shots would no longer be optional. Beginning this year, all of the hospital's staff, affiliated physicians, volunteers and vendors are required to receive a flu vaccination or apply for an exemption.
At least four of the nurses who were terminated tried to appeal the vaccine on religious grounds with the help of a lawyer, according to several published reports, but a hospital spokesperson said the eight workers who were fired did not fall under guidelines that would have granted them exemptions.
"Some of these individuals had very strongly held personal beliefs, but those are not considered religious beliefs," hospital spokesperson Melanie McDonald told NBC affiliate WNDU in South Bend, IN. "Medical exemptions, the ones that are accepted, are severe allergies that are often life-threatening."
McDonald said the implications of the policy were made clear from the day it was announced, and that the policy covers everyone who has contact with patient. The concern, she said, was that the flu could be deadly to some patients with compromised immune systems.
Three of the former nurses, Sue Schrock, a hospice nurse, Ethel Hoover, a critical care nurse, and Joyce Gingerich, who worked as an oncology nurse at the facility off and on since 1987, told the Elkhart Truth they were not surprised at their firings.
Hoover told the newspaper she had wrestled with the idea of receiving a flu shot before ultimately refused the vaccination and fiiling her exemption request, her request denied, she was terminated from her job a month short of her 22nd anniversary at the hospital.
The last time Hoover had a flu shot was about 20 years ago, she reportedly said, but when she got sick following the shot once she decided to never take one again, adding that she was also worried about long-term health effects from the vaccination.
"Your body has its natural responses to fight off certain viruses and infections, and if you continually inoculate your body with something that's not even guaranteed from preventing you from getting it, why would you do it," Hoover asked rhetorically during the interview.
"I was prepared to stand up for my rights and go for it," Schrock, who had worked for the hospital as a hospice nurse on and off for the past 40 years, told the newspaper in Elkhart, IN.
Schrock said she will continue working as an on-call nurse at a doctor's office in Goshen while she hunts for another job. But this experience has changed her outlook on the Goshen hopsital.
"I don't care if I ever walk through those doors again, but I'm going to miss it," she said. "I love my hospice patients, and I love my hospice colleagues. I will miss them immensely." In an interview with WSBT-TV, Schrock said her decsion to refuse the flu shot and accept the consquences was very much God-led.
Hoover told the Elkhart Truth she does not plan to go back into nursing unless it is for private care. Like Schrock and Gingerich, she will miss her job at the hospital. "I have enjoyed my patients, and my patients have thoroughly enjoyed me," she said.
Gingerich reportedly said leaving her job was one of the toughest decisions she's ever had to make.
"I worked with a phenomenal group of people in the oncology unit, and I miss them terribly," she said. "They are also very sad. Colleagues overall at the hospital were horrified that this was happening, and I'm going to miss them."