SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - "This should not be a divisive situation," said a neonatal nurse at Rady Children's Hospital, "it is simply a choice that is being made and we are being discriminated against our choice."
Thursday, across the State of California, healthcare workers have to show proof of vaccination or file for exemption. However, 10News has learned that hundreds of nurses at Rady Children's have filed for exemption and were denied.
"Having a choice is always an option and I was willing to do whatever it took to stand on what I believe."
That is the sentiment of one neonatal nurse with a long tenure at Rady Children's. She chose to remain anonymous, but shares she filed for religious exemption five weeks ago, and just got her declination letter on Saturday.
She was told she need to provide a response within three days. By Tuesday, she had to decide to either get vaccinated by September 30, or accept one of the three options the hospital provided to her.
The first is a non-patient contact position, if there was one available that met the background and experience requirements of the individual. The second option is electing a six-month unpaid leave of absence. The third option is to accept a pandemic separation agreement, that at this moment has no clear details.
"It's not anything that anyone can have a livelihood with and support their families with," she shares, "It's completely undue hardship and complete discrimination. It's basically punitive."
California's mandate states that by Thursday, all healthcare workers are to be vaccinated or submit a medical or religious exemption that would subject them to weekly testing and wearing of PPE. However, Rady Children's says that is not enough.
According to Union Tribune, it refused more than 201 exemptions out of more than 5, 250 employees.
Rady Children's released this statement to the Union Tribune saying:
“After consideration of the risks to the patients we serve, we have made the decision that unvaccinated staff cannot be in a role that involves patient contact,” Rady said. “We care for vulnerable patients who are largely unvaccinated, and we need to take steps to protect this patient population.”
It furthered that with 75 percent of its patients under the age of 12 and thus unable to be vaccinated, the hospital made the decision that no one will continue to work at the bedside without being vaccinated.
"They were hoping it would coerce nurses to get vaccinated," shared the veteran nurse, "because who wants to lose their jobs."
This nurse said her biggest concern is the children, and the care they would not receive.
"It's not going to be possible to provide safe care for the children at this point," she expressed, "and now this is just exemplifying it in a massive degree."
At the end of business Thursday, this nurse, as well as two hundred others, face job loss.
She hopes the hospital makes a change, "This is about the freedom of choice, and being discriminated against a choice that we are making and it needs to be clear to the public that the children will have the potential of having very limited healthcare without having all these healthcare providers who are highly skilled."
ABC 10News reached out Thursday to get a comment from Rady Children's Hospital, but have not heard back. Nurses and their supporters will rally at the hospital Friday at 2 p.m.