Metro hospital employees accidentally told they don’t have to get vaccinated, but they do

ATLANTA — Half of the hospitals in the metro Atlanta area are now working under a vaccine mandate, but some hospital workers were told by accident that will be exempt from that mandate.

Several WellStar employees tell Channel 2′s Ashli Lincoln they were told by their employer last week they would not have to get the vaccine.

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Many employees say they were waiting to see if they would be exempted from the mandate before getting the shot. Then, on the date they were required to be vaccinated by, many received an email telling them they were exempt, but they were not.

One WellStar employee who wanted to remain anonymous says that she and a dozen other employees received an email that they would be exempt from the vaccine for either religious or medical reasons, leaving them excited.

A different wave of emotions came flooding back when they found out an hour later that the emails had been sent in error.

“I’m pretty angry in regards to the whole situation,” she said. “I was pretty passionate about not getting it for different reasons. So it’s been a rollercoaster and then when you finally get the approval it was like a weight lifted off of you and then the door is just slammed shut in your face.”

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She tells Channel 2 Action News that she filed for an exemption after WellStar’s CEO announced that all employees would have to be vaccinated by the beginning of October, but never heard if she had been approved or not.

“It’s enough they didn’t hold up to their deadlines when we met the deadline with our exemptions, but they failed to hold up their end of the bargain,” she said.

After that announcement, many quit their jobs. But some like this woman hastily found a place to get vaccinated for fear of being placed on administrative leave without pay.

“They kind of put you in a corner and there’s not much you can do besides get vaccinated or quit,” she said.

Lincoln reached out to WellStar, who released a statement confirming the false email.

On the morning of October 1, a limited number of team members received an erroneous email stating that their medical exemption was approved. This included team members who had not requested a medical exemption, as well as team members who had received a prior response. We were able to quickly identify the issue and begin personal outreach to every team member impacted. We recognize the importance of the decision to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and truly regret the mistake. We have apologized to our team members for any confusion this may have caused.

—  WellStar Health Systems

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While WellStar did not have an exact number for Lincoln, they did confirm that the majority of their approximately 2,500 workers have been vaccinated.

Grady, Piedmont and Emory Health Systems also required their employees to get vaccinated by October 1.

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