Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect Beebe's vaccine policy.
Citing a temporary federal injunction, Bayhealth and Beebe Healthcare will no longer require employees to get their COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment.
A federal judge on Tuesday blocked President Joe Biden’s mandate that all health care workers must receive the vaccine, which was set to go into place next week. The original requirement would have forced workers to get the first dose by Dec. 6 and the second dose by Jan. 4.
In a Dec. 1 email to employees, Shana Ross, vice president of human resources, wrote that Bayhealth will no longer fire employees who have not received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose by Dec. 6, according to an email obtained by Delaware Online/The News Journal.
Bayhealth will continue to “strongly urge all employees to get vaccinated consistent with our commitment to maintaining a safe environment for all patients, employees, physicians and visitors," according to the email.
The health system will still follow Delaware’s directive of health workers either receiving the vaccine or undergoing regular testing, according to the email. A spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
Following the president’s mandate earlier this month, Beebe announced it will require its employees to get vaccinated by Dec. 24. A hospital spokesman said Wednesday that no changes are currently being made to this policy.
A few hours after the publication of this story on Thursday, Beebe CEO Dr. David Tam said in a statement that the hospital was pausing its mandate as officials "continue to monitor the federal injunction closely."
The hospital is still strongly urging employees to get vaccinated, and that it will follow the state regulations of unvaccinated health care workers getting tested weekly.
TidalHealth, which has hospitals in Maryland and Delaware, is also pausing the mandate for its employees. Roger Follebout, a hospital spokesman, said in a statement on Friday that the health system will continue to “monitor the current court ruling until a final decision is rendered.”
Like the other health systems, TidalHealth is encouraging employees to get the vaccine and will continue weekly testing of those who are unvaccinated. It’s also hoping employees who intended to leave their jobs due to the vaccine mandate will now reconsider.
ChristianaCare, Nemours Children’s Health and Saint Francis have all required employees to get the vaccine or face termination. ChristianaCare, the largest private employer in the state, only fired 150 of its 14,000 employees as a result.
Nationally, there has been a concern among some hospital executives that a vaccine mandate for health care workers could lead to further staff shortages if some employees refusing to get the shots. The vaccines, and the boosters, are seen as the best way to fend off the virus.
Delaware hospitals have experienced staffing shortages in recent months, with many nurses quitting due to burnout or better financial opportunities. Gov. John Carney allocated nearly $25 million to help hospitals with staffing and retention issues. The health systems initially asked for significantly more.
Bayhealth CEO and President Terry Murphy, in a Nov. 19 letter, pleaded with employees to get the vaccine, according to a letter obtained by Delaware Online/The News Journal. The subject line was “Vaccine Mandate - Please Stay!”
“For those of you who are unvaccinated, please stay in healthcare, please stay at Bayhealth,” he wrote. “Please consider being vaccinated before the deadline. You are vital to our healthcare network.
“Hundreds of thousands of patients are counting on you, they are counting on all of us to be here when they need us.”
Contact Meredith Newman at (302) 256-2466 or at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MereNewman.
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: For now, Bayhealth and Beebe won't fire those who are not vaccinated