STUART, Fla. — Cleveland Clinic is the latest hospital network in the area to notify its employees that they must be vaccinated to stay employed.
Employees received an email Friday stating in part, "Cleveland Clinic must follow the rule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). It applies to nearly all of healthcare."
The federal mandate requires any person who works in a healthcare facility to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022.
"I was heartbroken and a little bit scared, I guess," one Cleveland Clinic nurse, who did not want to be identified, said.
Despite the email and federal mandate, she said, "I'm sticking to my guns."
Cleveland Clinic said between its Broward County, Palm Beach County and Treasure Coast hospitals and outpatient clinics, 74% of employees are vaccinated.
That means nearly 30% have held out.
"I believe in personal choice, and I believe that there's still so much research to be done on it," the nurse said.
She has requested an exemption, which she said is still being processed.
"I'll comply with testing and whatever else they decide," the nurse said. "I would just like the choice to choose whether I get vaccinated or not."
If her exemption is denied, she said she will not be alone in being terminated.
"It would devastate my family," she said.
That is why she is also waiting to see if lawsuits against the federal mandate hold up.
In a statement, Cleveland Clinic said it is following those lawsuits:
“Recently, vaccine requirements were announced for healthcare systems regulated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). These federal mandates require all of our U.S. employees and those who provide services with us to receive their first dose of an mRNA vaccine or their one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine by December 6th. Under the CMS rule, employees who are not fully vaccinated by January 4, 2022 and who do not have a religious or medical exemption that can be accommodated will no longer be able to work for us. We are proud that the majority of our caregivers are already vaccinated, and we are encouraging those who are not yet vaccinated to receive their vaccine as quickly as possible. Our Cleveland Clinic Florida locations are continuing planning efforts to ensure compliance. We will continue to monitor the state of Florida’s lawsuit and what it could mean for our Florida caregivers.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed new protections for state workers into law Thursday. The nurse said she is waiting to see how the state protections will apply to her and if hospitals like Cleveland Clinic will be changing their vaccine requirements.
"I wanted to help patients," she added. "I wanted to make a difference."