Company fires 50 employees for not getting flu shots

A Minnesota-based health company reportedly fired some 50 employees this week after they refused to get flu shots in defiance of a new policy that required anyone without religious or medical criteria for exemption to get the vaccination.

Hundreds of employees at Essentia Health received the vaccination after being warning they would lose their job, the Star Tribune reported, but some still refused, according to Dr. Rajesh Prabhu, Essentia Health's chief patient safety officer.

The company has 15 hospitals and 75 clinics in Minnesota, Idaho, North Dakota and Wisconsin, as well as assisted living and long-term care facilities. Essentia Health said it wanted to keep its patients from getting sick and that 99 percent of its employees received the vaccination, an exemption or were getting an exemption by the deadline on Monday, the Associated Press reported.

RELATED: 10 most common causes of death in the US

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10 most common causes of death in the US
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10 most common causes of death in the US

Heart Disease: 614,348 deaths in 2014

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(Photo by: BSIP/UIG via Getty Images)

Cancer: 591,699 deaths in 2014

info provided by CDC

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Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease: 147,101 deaths in 2014

info provided by CDC

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Accidents (unintentional injuries): 136,053 deaths in 2014

info provided by CDC

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Stroke: 133,103 deaths in 2014

info provided by CDC

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Alzheimer's disease: 93,541 deaths in 2014

info provided by CDC

Photo Credit: Press Association 

Diabetes: 76,488 deaths in 2014

info provided by CDC

Photo Credit: Press Association 

Influenza & pnuemonia: 55,227 deaths in 2014

info provided by CDC

Photo Credit Reuters 

Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 48,146 deaths in 2014

info provided by CDC

(Photo by: BSIP/UIG via Getty Images)

Suicide: 42,773 deaths in 2014

info provided by CDC

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Prabhu told the Star Tribune it is extremely important hospital workers get the flu shot because severely ill patients are at greater risk of complications and death if they catch the virus. Although the flu vaccine is not 100 percent effective, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly advises people get it as it greatly reduces the chances of catching the infection.

"We are working in a different environment. We're taking care of patients. We have a different sort of ethical obligation," Prabhu said.

Three unions objected to Essentia Health's new policy and sought a federal court injunction to block the company from firing workers who refused to get the vaccine, according to the Star Tribune. The United Steelworkers' attempt was unsuccessful. The Minnesota Nurses Association and the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, Council 65, also lodged complaints.

The nursing union said it will file a grievance on behalf of any nurse fired as a result of the new flu shot policy.

Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report

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