To the editor:
I started my employment at Highland District Hospital in May of 2020, when COVID-19 was beginning to show its impact on all of our lives. The pandemic caused a lot of changes within the hospital and within my position. I found myself going from running the pathology department to being in a small sanitation room in the ER swabbing noses and running COVID-19 tests.
I made it through working in these conditions for nearly a year and a half before I got infected with COVID-19 during this past Christmas. I was not previously vaccinated and I recuperated quickly while being cared for by an extraordinary physician with a widely condemned treatment regimen. After being instructed to quarantine for 10 days, I returned to the hospital where I continued to be a successful employee, choosing to remain unvaccinated for my own personal reasons.
The CMS COVID-19 vaccine mandate has recently required all hospital staff to comply with one of three options:
1. Receive the complete series of one of the three authorized COVID-19 vaccines, submitting proof of vaccination;
2. Submit a religious exemption for approval/denial;
3. Submit a medical exemption for approval/denial.
Based off the guidelines detailed in this mandate, a personal exemption is not acceptable for compliance. To most, they considered my background as a Christian fortunate, as I could file a religious exemption truthfully. I did not see this as an option as my religion is not the basis for why I am declining the shot. I imagine there are many Christians who have chosen to receive the vaccine and I do not believe they are going against God’s word for doing so.To say that I am not getting the vaccine because of my religion therefore would be lie.
Others mentioned my network of doctors who were capable of signing a medical exemption to deem me compliant. However, I did not see this as an option either as I am a perfectly healthy young female who has received vaccines in the past, and therefore, this would also be a lie. For me, this left the following three options:
1. Receive a shot against my will to keep my job;
2. Lie about the reason I am declining the shot to keep my job;
3. Remain honest while staying true to my convictions and lose my job.
Because of my sincerely held beliefs, I did not see option No. 1 or No. 2 as an option at all, which left me with what I believe is the morally right option — No. 3. I explained my feelings to the hospital and was reassured that unfortunately because of the CMS mandate, a personal exemption could not be approved. For remaining honest, I was placed on a two-week unpaid leave, giving me time to reflect on my decision and possibly change my mind. A strongly held conviction is not one that is easily altered. My decision was made from the start, and due to noncompliance, I was fired on April 5th for doing what I believed was morally right.
I do not share my story to bring criticism to Highland District Hospital as their hands have been tied to comply with this federal mandate. I share this story to hopefully open the eyes of our community. We have policies in place that not only take away our right to make a choice, but encourage religious and medical discrimination while also punishing hardworking, honest citizens. Whether you have received the COVID-19 vaccination or not, I hope you have been able to truthfully make this personal health decision on your own. With that, I pray that your ability to feed your family is never taken from you based off your God-given right to make that choice.