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About 200 UMass Memorial Health workers fired for not getting vaccinated against COVID-19

A registered nurse cared for a patient in a COVID-19 Unit at UMass Memorial Medical Center in 2020.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Some 200 employees of UMass Memorial Health, the largest hospital system in Central Massachusetts, have lost their jobs for failing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by the system’s Dec. 1 deadline, a spokesperson said Monday.

“We truly hoped that everyone would get the vaccine and stay in the UMass Memorial family, but as a healthcare organization, we must protect our patients and other caregivers,” spokesperson Debora Spano said in a statement.

The news follows a ruling late last month from US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who declined to block Mass General Brigham from enforcing a mandate requiring employees of the state’s largest hospital system to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

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Breyer denied a motion from the plaintiffs — a group of Mass General Brigham employees seeking religious exemptions to the mandate — who sought a preliminary injunction barring the hospital system from enforcing the rule.

In a statement at the time of Breyer’s denial, a Mass General Brigham spokesman said 430 employees were fired for failing to comply with the vaccine mandate, out of more than 80,000 who did comply.

Mass General Brigham also said last month that it “joins many other leading health care systems in the United States in making COVID-19 vaccination a condition of employment, ensuring that patients are being cared for in the safest clinical environment possible. The evidence of COVID-19 vaccine safety and effectiveness is overwhelming and more than 99.3% of our employees are vaccinated.”

Monday’s announcement from UMass Memorial Health also comes as hospitals are running into mounting capacity issues as the surge of infections continues to rise and the worrisome Omicron variant has arrived in Massachusetts, as it has in a number of other states.

“We ran out of ICU beds today,” said Dr. Eric Dickson, chief executive of UMass Memorial Health in Worcester, in an interview last week. “That’s as bad as I’ve ever seen it.”

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In addition to health systems, many public sector workers are subject to vaccine mandates in Massachusetts, including tens of thousands of executive branch employees under the purview of Governor Charlie Baker’s administration.

Baker’s office confirmed in late October that more than 500 Massachusetts state employees covered under the mandate had been suspended, resigned, or, in some cases, fired for not complying.

In all, 362 state employees are serving five- or 10-day suspensions for not complying with Baker’s order and another 141 have left state government, of whom 11 were terminated, Baker’s office said.

The Baker administration said taken together, those disciplined account for roughly 1 percent of the state’s 42,000 executive branch employees who had to prove their vaccination status or seek an exemption by Oct. 17 or risk being terminated under one of the country’s strictest vaccine mandates.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.