IU Health Goshen Hospital fires nurses for not getting flu shot

GOSHEN, Ind. -- Get a flu shot or lose your job. That is the option IU Health Goshen Hospital gave to its employees in December.  

In September the hospital updated its policies, making the flu vaccine mandatory. However, eight nurses stood by their beliefs and lost their jobs because of it.

Most people think the flu is just an inconvenience -- that it's just something that makes us sick and unable to go to work.

But experts say it's the deadliest vaccine-preventable disease out there and now it's stirring up a controversial debate with those against vaccinations altogether. 

After more than 40 years, Sue Shrock still loves her work as a nurse, especially her time spent as a hospice RN at IU Health Goshen Hospital.

"I absolutely loved it. I wasn't sure I was going to. I wasn't sure it was my calling, but I think it was something I was led to do," Shrock said.

She, along with seven other nurses, refused to get the flu vaccine now mandatory at the hospital. Shrock says she wasn't willing to compromise her faith-based convictions against taking the flu shot.

She decided she had no choice but to resign from the job she loved.

"I felt like I needed to listen to what God was telling me, so it was very much a God-led decision."

In early September the hospital told employees they had until the day after Christmas to get a flu shot or they would be fired. The hospital made the move after many agencies, including the CDC, recommended mandatory flu shots.

There are two ways out of it though, a medical or religious exemption.

"These were very objective guidelines against which each exemption request was measured and so there were exemptions granted for both medical and religious, for these eight it was a different story," said IU Health Goshen Hospital spokeswoman Melanie McDonald. 

Like others, Shrock applied for a religious exemption, but it was denied on the basis that a moral or God-led conviction was different than a religious practice or faith that does not believe in vaccinations. 

"I was quite surprised. We had a lawyer behind us, a vaccines rights lawyer for North Carolina. He wrote our second exemption letter for us and then followed it with seven pages of legal analysis," said Shrock.

Goshen Hospital says it embraced the new policy for one reason, to keep their patients safe.

That is why it says it's not willing to budge for these eight employees or any others in the years to come. 

"In a hospital setting you have patients whose immune systems are already compromised, so you need to do everything you can to make sure patient safety is your top priority," said McDonald.

McDonald said mandatory flu shots have become a growing trend at hospitals around the country including Elkhart General Hospital and South Bend Memorial Hospital, both of which introduced similar policies this year as well. 

Still, Shrock says there are other ways to ensure patient safety. Many of which are already in the form of policies at the hospital, like not coming to work when you are sick and waiting 24 hours after a fever subsides before returning.

It's just another reason why these nurses felt this mandatory policy was unnecessary and unfair.

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