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'It is our goal to fire no one': MGH president on looming employee vaccination deadline14:49
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Hundreds of employees at Massachusetts General Hospital — including a small number of physicians and nurses — still aren't vaccinated and are at risk of suspension or losing their jobs. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Hundreds of employees at Massachusetts General Hospital — including a small number of physicians and nurses — still aren't vaccinated and are at risk of suspension or losing their jobs. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

About 800 employees at Massachusetts General Hospital — including a small number of physicians and nurses — still aren't vaccinated and are at risk of suspension or losing their jobs.

The hospital's mandatory employee vaccine deadline is Friday.

MGH President Dr. David Brown tells WBUR about half of the employees are temporary "per diem" workers who don't have regular hours at the hospital, while the other half are regular employees.

The group represents about 3% of the approximately 28,000 Mass General employees. There are about 77,000 employees across the entire Mass General Brigham hospital network, which includes Mass General.

"We're busy confirming among that group of 800 at Mass General, who ... is in fact vaccinated and can provide confirmation of that so that number gets smaller," Brown says, adding that employees can get their doses right at any hospital in the system. They are still conducting hundreds of first-time vaccinations daily.

Brown says as of Thursday afternoon there are unvaccinated staff members in a wide range of roles, but only a small number are physicians or nurses.

"There isn't one role group that seems to be disproportionately impacted," he says.

MGH says employees who have gotten a first dose by Friday and have a concrete plan to get their second will still meet the requirement.

From there, Brown says the hospital will whittle down a final group of employees not in compliance, suspend those still on the list by next week and, ultimately, fire them if they remain unvaccinated.

"It is our goal to fire no one. It is our goal to protect all of our employees with vaccination — as we protect all of our patients by vaccinating our staff," Brown says. "And even as we move into next week, we will be eager to vaccinate anyone who remains unvaccinated so they can remain on our staff and remain part of our team."

Mass General Brigham announced the employee vaccine mandate in June.

"The evidence of COVID-19 vaccine safety and effectiveness is overwhelming," Mass General Brigham CEO Dr. Anne Klibanski wrote. "Getting vaccinated is the single most important and responsible step each of us can take to put an end to this devastating pandemic and protect patients, families, and each other."

Brown — who took the helm at MGH in September after Dr. Peter Slavin stepped down — says the hospital is trying to persuade employees still on the fence right down to the last minute.

"We've worked really hard to try to get the information that our employees need as they consider vaccination, and we're continuing to do that [Thursday]. We'll continue to do it all day [Friday]. We'll do it next week if anyone wants to talk to us who remains unvaccinated," he says. "We've tried to meet people where they are, understand what their concerns are and then try to help them work their way through those concerns and ultimately get vaccinated."

Brown says the hospital hasn't finalized a policy for employee vaccine boosters, but is encouraging eligible employees to get one six months after their vaccine, when boosters are recommended. (Here's more about who needs a booster and when.)

Some Massachusetts hospitals say losing employees because of vaccine mandates will cause a staffing crunch at a time when they badly need people at work caring for patients.

Beth Israel Lahey Health, Boston Medical Center, UMass Memorial Health and Wellforce — which includes Tufts Medical Center — are among local hospital systems that also have employee vaccine mandates taking effect.

This article was originally published on October 14, 2021.

This segment aired on October 14, 2021.

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