CINCINNATI — Despite a looming deadline to prove they've been vaccinated against COVID-19 or risk losing their jobs, a new survey conducted by an Ohio nurses union suggests a significant number of nurses at one local hospital would rather quit than be required to get their shots. The union leadership said it uses these surveys to bargain with the hospital as administrators develop the policy.
Out of the six major hospital systems here, three of them require staff to become fully vaccinated by Oct. 1. That includes Cincinnati Children’s, Christ Hospital and St. Elizabeth. University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Tri-Health and Mercy Health have announced they'll require vaccination but had not set a specific date to show proof as of Tuesday.
Now, a new poll of UCMC nurses who are part of the union there is gaining attention from healthcare workers across the region. The survey found that out of the nurses who responded, 30 percent said they would quit their job if the hospital finalized the vaccine mandate.
The Ohio Nurses Association conducted the survey. Labor representative Dominic Mendiola said 456 nurses responded, with 136 indicating that a vaccine mandate would prompt them to quit.
Staffing shortages make it harder for nurses to care for sick people, Mendiola said.
“It makes nurses’ jobs harder to be able to provide optimal patient care, which can lead to patient safety concerns down the line if it continues for a long period of time,” said Mendiola.
He said UCMC has 30 beds closed, currently, due to lack of staff. UCMC had not responded to WCPO's request for comment as of Tuesday afternoon.
“Over the course of the last two months, we’ve received over 80 objections from nurses to their assignments at the medical center due to short-staffing concerns," Mendiola said.
Mendiola said UCMC agreed to negotiate the vaccine policy with the nurse union. He said the first bargaining date — Aug. 23 — did not work because of staffing issues.
“They canceled due to stating that they were unable to allow two of our nurses off of the floor for four hours to do the bargaining due to staffing concerns,” said Mendiola.
The bargaining session was rescheduled for Sept. 13. He said the union leaders sent the latest survey results to human resources so they can prepare.
The staff vaccine rate data remained uncertain earlier this month, according to area hospitals.