Instead of getting Christmas bonuses this year, eight employees of Indiana University Health Goshen Hospital got pink slips instead. This was because the hospital implemented a new, mandatory flu shot policy in September, which said that all employees must get flu shots by December 19.
Several employees applied for exemptions. Some applied under medical grounds, and some applied under religious grounds. When the exemptions and subsequent appeals were denied, however, the employees who had not complied with the policy were fired. Their last day on the job was December 25.
One nurse who had spent her entire career at IU Goshen Hospital said her reasons were both medical and religious. In her nearly 22 years at the hospital, she said she had only been sick about five times, and one of those times was because she had gotten a flu shot. She said she vowed after that not to get another. She was let go two months before her 22nd anniversary at the hospital.
"I feel like I've given 22 years of my life. I've given my best. My patients--that was my passion--and all of a sudden, they're saying a flu shot is more important," said Ethel Hoover, who is Mennonite. Hoover said she is not against all vaccines, but her religious beliefs did play a part in her choice not to receive the vaccine.
"God Gave us a body. He gave us, He Made our body uniquely that we can--if we live a healthful life---that our chances of being able to fight it off with our own immune system is very likely," said Hoover.
A spokesperson for the hospital said that several employees were granted medical or religious exemptions, but the eight 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," said McDonald. "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 patients. McDonald said the concern was that the flu could be deadly to some patients with compromised immune systems.