Ascension Seton Hays employees protest hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate as deadline looms

Hays

KYLE, Texas (KXAN) — The deadline for all Ascension Seton employees and associates to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is Friday.

In late July, the hospital network announced all employees would need to be fully vaccinated against the virus to secure their employment.

“This timing is aligned with Ascension’s annual influenza vaccination requirement and we will follow a similar implementation process,” the hospital said in a statement. “In those instances when someone may not be able to get vaccinated due to a medical condition, strongly held religious belief, or other compelling and important reason, Ascension will provide a process for requesting an exemption similar to the process we use for the annual influenza vaccine. In addition, this requirement will be implemented in accordance with collective bargaining agreements reached between Ascension business entities and unions representing our associates.”

Delilah Barrio’s hospital ID is coming off — this time for good.

“They trust us to take care of people, they trust us to make decisions and provide for people — but they don’t trust us to make decisions for our own health care, and that’s very shameful to me,” Barrio said.

She’s a surgical tech and has been with Ascension Seton in Kyle for 18 years.  

“It’s either comply or lose your job,” Barrio said. “That’s it.”

And it really is just that simple. Ascension Seton said, in part, in a statement:

“We want patients to be assured and comforted with the knowledge that Ascension Seton doctors and nurses, other clinicians and associates, working in one of our hospitals or other sites of care, will either be vaccinated against both COVID-19 and influenza, or in the limited instances of exemptions, be complying with additional infection prevention protocols.

We want our patients and their loved ones to enjoy peace of mind as they entrust us with their care. So helping to ensure the safe and effective operations of our hospitals and other sites of care continues to be our top priority.”

  • Ascension Seton Hays employees protest hospital's COVID-19 vaccine mandate as deadline looms (KXAN Photo/Ed Zavala)
  • Ascension Seton Hays employees protest hospital's COVID-19 vaccine mandate as deadline looms (KXAN Photo/Ed Zavala)
  • Ascension Seton Hays employees protest hospital's COVID-19 vaccine mandate as deadline looms (KXAN Photo/Ed Zavala)
  • Ascension Seton Hays employees protest hospital's COVID-19 vaccine mandate as deadline looms (KXAN Photo/Ed Zavala)
  • Ascension Seton Hays employees protest hospital's COVID-19 vaccine mandate as deadline looms (KXAN Photo/Ed Zavala)

Thursday will be Barrios’ last day on the job.

“I volunteered to submit to weekly COVID testing and was just flatly told no,” Barrio said.

She’s indigenous and tried to get a religious exemption excusing the COVID-19 vaccine, but it was denied.

“I have not taken a flu vaccine for at least eight years now,” Barrio said. “I did the same process to request religious declaration for that.”

The hospital system wouldn’t say how many medical or religious exemptions were or were not approved. It’s also being tight-lipped on how many employees will be fired as a result of non-compliance.

On Friday, the deadline to be fully vaccinated, some employees plan to protest.

“I need to have my voice heard, because they didn’t hear it any other way… to let them know, that I was a good employee for you, I worked hard for you, and I shouldn’t be thrown out,” Operating Nurse Carmela Johnson said.

Johnson’s religious exemption application was also denied.

“For me, I have to do what’s right for my conscience… if that entails sacrificing livelihood — I have to be able to look at myself in the morning,” Johnson said.

Other hospital systems in Central Texas are also requiring vaccinations for their employees.

Baylor Scott & White extended its vaccination deadline to Nov. 15. A spokesperson told KXAN as of Thursday, 99% of their workforce was vaccinated.

St. David’s HealthCare told KXAN on Wednesday it would require employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine after initially deciding not to. St. David’s said workers have to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022.

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