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Suspended Ascension Florida employees can go back to work after change in state vaccine laws

Published: Nov. 19, 2021 at 5:08 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - After Gov. Ron DeSantis signed multiple vaccine mandate ban bills into law on Thursday, Ascension Florida is reversing its vaccine mandate policy, for now.

A local hospital was facing a possible lawsuit after mandating the COVID-19 vaccine back on July 27th. On October 29th, we spoke with an attorney out of Destin who is representing employees who are against this mandate. Last Friday, almost 100 were terminated when the hospital’s vaccine mandate went into effect.

On Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed multiple bills that were passed during the Florida Legislature’s special session, which the governor called for to combat federal coronavirus policies. Under one of the hallmark bills, private employers must give workers the chance to opt-out of vaccine mandates. That includes medical and religious exemptions. As well as immunity from a previous infection. Employees can also agree to regular COVID tests or wear protective gear to avoid getting vaccinated.

In an exclusive interview with this attorney, we’re told ascension employees who were terminated for not getting the shot, won a small victory Friday.

“It appears at this point, the hospital is calling their staff back into work.” Destin Attorney Greg Crosslin said.

Calling their staff back in, after having suspended a hefty number of healthcare workers last Friday.

“Between the three facilities, it’s between 80 and 90,” said Crosslin.

Crosslin represented most of these former employees. He said Friday afternoon, some of his clients received calls from their individual bosses.

“Telling them that they are to come back into work Monday, that Sacred Heart has made a decision they’re not going to continue the mandate in Florida in light of the new law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis,” said Crosslin.

The new law states...

“Nobody will lose their job because they refuse to take a vaccine,” said Crosslin.

Sacred Heart officials exclusively tell us in a statement:

“”In order to be compliant with federal and state laws, Ascension Florida will be rescinding the suspensions of associates who were suspended pending their compliance with the Ascension Florida vaccine policy. All associates will be required to continue to comply with our infection control protocols. Once we have clarity regarding the application of the new Florida Law HB 1B and the CMS interim rule, suspensions may be reinstated,” Ascension Sacred Heart Communications Manager Mike Burke said.

“Hopefully it means they’ll be able to deliver appropriate levels of care to our local residents who need the care who might be at the hospital,” said Crosslin.

But there is still a lot of uncertainty when it comes to federal laws and guidelines.

“This is only a temporary victory. They could still be facing termination for vaccine mandate all over again in January,” said Crosslin.

A mandate the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has a deadline for unvaccinated employees to be fired on January 4th if they don’t get the vaccine. Crosslin said this decision will ultimately come down to who has the control, the federal government or the state.

But, it’s still a temporary victory that Crosslin and his clients are still thankful for this holiday season.

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