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More than 1,000 healthcare workers facing possible termination

Connecticut's two largest hospitals have vaccine mandates for all workers with a deadline of this week.

CONNECTICUT, USA — Healthcare workers across Connecticut have a difficult decision this week: either get a COVID-19 vaccine or lose their jobs. The deadline set by two major hospitals is approaching this week. 

Those who work for Hartford Healthcare have until the end of the day Thursday to show proof of vaccination. Healthcare workers at Yale New Haven Health have until Friday, Oct. 1 to submit their proof. Trinity Health of New England already passed its deadline, set for last week.

The deadlines' impact can already be felt amongst workers.

"A couple of people. We had nurses here that were here for over 30 years...they denied the vaccination and unfortunately they had got terminated, yes," said Millz Ayala Lebron, a Hartford Hospital employee who works in environmental services.

As of Thursday, more than 1,000 healthcare workers across the state are still unvaccinated.

At least 95% of the workers at Trinity Health of New England are vaccinated. Hartford Healthcare has vaccinated 97% of its employees, in hopes that the last 3% will get their shots by the end of the day Thursday.

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At Yale New Haven Health, they have almost a 99% vaccination rate. Still, they have more than 400 unvaccinated workers who could be facing possible termination.

"I would anticipate that between 100 and 200 people, unfortunately, end up leaving the organization," said Dr. Ohm Deshpande, VP of Population Health and Associate Chief Clinical Officer at Yale New Haven Health. 

Desphande said each day, managers are talking with their employees, hoping to get the vaccination rate even higher. He said 400 people alone changed their minds and got their shots last week. 

On Monday, all Yale New Haven Health employees who are not vaccinated got a verbal warning. If they're not vaccinated by next week, they'll get a written warning. If it continues the following week, they will be getting a letter of termination.

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"I know it's not been easy for the people who have been a little reluctant to get vaccinated. But it's really having the desired effect and I'm incredibly grateful that so many people have ultimately made the right decision," Deshpande said. 

At Yale New Haven, it's mainly nurses, technicians, and people working in the business office who are not complying with the mandate. For them, getting physicians to get their shots has not been a problem. 

Still, almost all 30,000 employees do work on the front lines. The thought of losing even one of them keeps Desphande up at night. But he hopes they won't have to let them go.

"The other thing is that if those individuals, and I hope they do get vaccinated, we will absolutely open them back with open arms. They're valued members of our organization," said Deshpande 

"Hospitals, I feel like you should get it if that’s what you want to do just to protect yourself and your loved ones because it is definitely a virus and it’s something not to play with. But again it should be a choice that should not be mandatory," said Ayala Lebron.

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FOX 61 reached out to all three major hospitals in the state. They each sent the following statements.

"Hartford HealthCare is committed to patient safety and our role in protecting the public’s health from COVID-19. That is why Hartford HealthCare instituted a universal COVID-19 vaccination policy for all colleagues and related clinical staff. 

Currently, 97 percent of Hartford HealthCare full time/part-time and per diem colleagues have received at least one vaccination (nearly 92 percent are fully vaccinated.) We are hopeful that the 3 percent who are not yet engaged (683 people) will choose to be vaccinated on or before the September 30 deadline.

All vaccines have proven to be safe and extremely effective at reducing serious illness and death. We have been working diligently to help our colleagues come to the decision that is right for them, and hope all of our colleagues make the choice to stay within our organization.

-Ajay Kumar, Chief Clinical Officer

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Trinity Health Of New England takes safety seriously—in fact it is one of our Core Values. That is why Trinity Health was the first major national health system to require COVID-19 vaccination for all colleagues and clinicians.

While we are still reviewing final documentation, we know at least 95% of colleagues have taken action to submit their required documentation (as of 9/28/21).  Please note, this data is changing quickly and is being updated regularly.   

The COVID-19 vaccine is the single most effective tool in slowing, and even stopping, the spread of this deadly virus and will prevent the emergence of new variants. As health care professionals, it is the right thing to do to protect ourselves as well as our patients, families and communities – especially the most vulnerable.

Our colleagues are our most valuable resource and the goal of this initiative is vaccination not termination.  We are providing education and support to those colleagues who have not yet submitted information about their vaccination status and are giving colleagues every opportunity to take action.  We are optimistic that these efforts will be successful. 

-Spokesperson, Trinity Health of New England

Julia LeBlanc is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at jleblanc@fox61.com Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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