Health Care Staffing on Life Support

News: Video Reports
by Kristine Christlieb  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 20, 2021   

Mandate consequences in Missouri

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TRANSCRIPT

In the summer, Church Militant reported on a group of St. Louis nurses from Catholic health care giant SSM Health. They had just learned their employer was going to force them to get the vaccine. In tonight's In-Depth Report, Church Militant's Kristine Christlieb follows up with the most recent developments.

KSDK Anchor: "All staff has until the end of September to get at least their first shot of the COVID vaccine."

In early July, within days of one another, all four of St. Louis' health care systems announced they would be requiring employees to be fully vaccinated. For a number of nurses at Catholic-affiliated SSM, the news was disappointing.

Patricia Lucido, R.N., 16-year SSM employee: "I'm so disappointed in SSM. I chose this hospital because it was a Catholic institution."

Dr. Clay Dunagan, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, claims only a small minority objected to the mandate. He told St. Louis Public Radio on Tuesday, vaccine objectors turn out to be "a very tiny part of the workforce, and it's really not compromising health care operations."

But headlines across the state are telling a different story.

As recently as Oct. 3, the local Fox affiliate had this update about the nursing shortage at two large Catholic health systems in St. Louis.

Fox Anchor: "One of the reasons for staffing shortages could be vaccine mandates."

Patricia Lucido, an SSM nurse for 16 years, received a religious exemption, but the exemption requires her to be swabbed weekly for COVID.

Lucido: "There's a lot of evidence that shows vaccinated people get COVID as well as unvaccinated people. And to single us out — as the unvaccinated people with a religious exemption or a medical exemption — is wrong. And I believe that it's retaliatory; I believe it is punitive."

The divide between the vaxxed and the unvaxxed has created additional tension in a profession already burdened with the pressure of life-and-death situations. 

Lucido:

I would say I've been in a difficult environment when I'm in a room with a physician that says if you don't get the vaccination you're stupid — not knowing my status. And so those are difficult situations, and that happened to me twice at work — me not specifically called stupid but saying if people don't get vaccinated they are stupid. I did speak up and say, "Well, I am one of those who has not been vaccinated."

Legal battles over the vaccine mandate are piling up as discrimination concerns arise in a variety of workplaces — from hospitals to airports.

Late yesterday, Patty Lucido received a letter from SSM telling her "your employment is terminated effective Oct. 19, 2021."

A year ago, the hospital was calling her and others "heroes."

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