WALTON COUNTY Fla. (WMBB) — Ascension Sacred Heart Hospitals followed through on their vaccination mandate and fired some of their unvaccinated employees Friday.
Hospital workers have had since July to comply with the requirement. November 12 was the deadline. Some of those now-former employees took to the picket line at the Miramar Beach facility Friday.
“I work for Ascension Sacred Heart, or at least I did until a couple of days ago,” said Registered Nurse Landon McCollum.
McCollum is one of the handful of Ascension Sacred Heart employees who failed to get a COVID-19 vaccination or supply an approved waiver for not taking the vaccine.
“For religion or medical reasons,” said McCollum. “And almost all of them have been rejected. And they said upon the rejection of your waiver this is your voluntary resignation.”
McCollum joined others in protest on Highway 98, fighting against the mandate.
That protest started Friday at 6:30 a.m. and went until noon. Some signs stated how last year some of these employees were seen as heroes, and now many are unemployed. Protestors just want to have a choice whether to receive the vaccine or not.
“I told them during the interview I will not be taking the mandate and they hired me anyway,” said McCollum referring to a couple of months ago. “Now I am walking away from nursing.”
Physician Ray Gutierrez worked at Bay Ascension for two years as the Director in the ER. However, after Friday he will be following in the same path.
“I haven’t been without a job in 40 years,” said Gutierrez. “I served my country in the military and being an ER Director. It’s been challenging. I have friends of mine thinking about filing for bankruptcy. But I am going to try to figure out some things, and God-willing something will come up. It’s scary.”
Both Gutierrez and McCollum, along with many others have said they will continue to fight their former employer.
“We have two class-action lawsuits against ascension right now,” said McCollum. “We have all the legal work in and a formal complaint to the joint commission.”
A statement from Ascension Sacred Heart, states that they are requiring employee vaccinations to protect patients.
About two dozen of the unvaccinated employees from Ascension Bay, Walton, and Escambia counties hired Destin Attorney Greg Crosslin to represent them.