by Robbie Owens | CBS 11
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The fight against Covid-19 continues and the new battleground will likely be the courts.READ MORE: First Lady Jill Biden And Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff Traveling To Texas
Some employees at Houston’s Methodist Medical Center have filed a lawsuit after the hospital made Covid-19 vaccines mandatory. Those that don’t comply will be suspended at midnight for two weeks without pay and will then likely lose their jobs.
“If we’re not comfortable injecting something into our body, do not fire us or make us lose our livelihoods,” says nurse Jennifer Bridges, the lead plaintiff.
But Dallas’ Parkland Hospital system is choosing ‘education’ over ‘litigation’, and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Chang says it’s working.
“We would go into those departments and answer questions directly,” says Dr. Chang. “We really thought that sort of targeted education really made a big difference to where we went from 30%-40%, up to about 73% of all our employees vaccinated. We actually know that’s an underestimate because that’s only the people that got vaccinated here at Parkland.”
During the worst of the pandemic, 45% of Parkland patients were infected with Covid… many of the frontline staffers there seeing the life and death struggles firsthand.
“It was devastating for us to have to say goodbye to so many of our patients,” says Dr. Chang.
In light of that, it was expected that the employee response to vaccine opportunities would be strong— and it was.
“We had people lined up for hours trying to get vaccines, but then we saw like everyone else, that the demand really started to trail off.”
That’s when hospital leaders began addressing the questions and concerns head on and once reluctant employees responded. For now, there are no plans to make the vaccines mandatory.READ MORE: Cameron Lavon Stephens, 18, Charged With Murder In Fatal Shooting Of Arlington Teen At Hurricane Harbor
Meanwhile, Governor Abbott has tweeted that he plans to sign a bill into law as soon as today that would ban so called “vaccine passports” or requiring “vaccine information.” The law doesn’t place an outright ban on employers requiring the vaccine, but some say the legal landscape is now more confusing.
“This is a total head scratcher,” says Dallas employment attorney Rogge Dunn. “Some of my business clients want to require all employees be vaccinated, but if you have that requirement and you’re not allowed to verify it, how are you as an employer going to enforce that new requirement?”
Meanwhile, other local hospital systems are also taking an approach that focuses on ‘encouraging’ rather than ‘requiring.’
Texas Health Resources– which includes Dallas’ Presbyterian Hospital–told CBS 11 in a statement: “Although it is strongly encouraged, Texas Health Resources does not require its employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Currently, nearly 70% of all Texas Health employees have been vaccinated. Vaccination has contributed significantly to protecting our communities from the current public health crisis, reducing the loss of life and burden in our daily lives. We are pleased to have supported this encouraging trend through vaccination of our employees and of the public through our community clinics.”
Baylor Scott & White also not requiring the vaccines at this point, telling us in a statement: “As you can imagine, vaccinating our staff is an ongoing process, and the number of employees who have been vaccinated changes continuously. So while we do not have a number to give you at this moment, we can tell you that the majority our team members have been vaccinated.”
Steven Love, President/CEO of the DFW Hospital Council says “many hospital systems are waiting for emergency use authorization to be removed.”
Both Pfizer and Moderna have applied for full approval.
But local doctors continue to stress that there is no reason to wait.MORE NEWS: Austin Police Arrest, Charge 19-Year-Old With Murder For 6th Street Mass Shooting
“This is the bottom line,” says Parkland’s Dr. Chang, “vaccines have saved more lives in the history of mankind than anything ever invented. We’ve got to get out there and encourage our loved ones and our community to protect themselves and each other. That’s how we get back to normal.”