New Jersey hospitals have severed the employment of nearly 250 workers who have refused to get inoculated against COVID-19.

All employees of RWJ/Barnabas and Virtua Health had to show proof of vaccination status last Friday. On Monday, both hospital groups announced hundreds of workers had either been fired or quit after refusing to get vaccinated.

RWJBarnabas Health is New Jersey's largest hospital group with 15 hospitals and dozens of other outpatient centers and facilities that employ 35,000 people.

The company says 118 individuals have been let go for refusing to comply with the vaccination mandate by Friday's deadline, as 99.7% of the system's staff have been either vaccinated or granted an approved exemption or deferral.

"Regrettably, and despite all best efforts, 118 staff members have not complied with the mandate and are no longer employees of RWJBarnabas Health, per our vaccine mandate policy. 62 of those staff members were per-diem employees who worked occasional shifts across our organization. While we take the loss of any team member seriously, we had anticipated some of our staff would not be in compliance and took steps to proactively recruit for positions deemed at-risk for vacancy," a spokesperson for RWJBarnabas Health said in a written statement on Tuesday.

"Given the overall number of staff who have been separated from the organization is distributed across our numerous facilities, job types and work shifts, patient care will not be affected, nor will there be any impact on the normal operations of our services.”

At Virtua, which operates five hospitals, seven urgent care centers and more than two dozen primary care offices in South Jersey, they announced 120 employees had "elected to discontinue their employment" rather than get vaccinated.

For both groups, the terminated employees made up approximately 1% of their total workforce. RWJBH and Virtua offer medical and religious exemptions. Employees who qualify are subject to regular COVID testing.

Unfortunately, about 120 people have elected to discontinue their employment due to the vaccination policy. While that is their right, we had hoped they would have chosen to receive this very safe and effective vaccine in order to protect themselves, our patients, and others. Vaccines are our best hope for reducing serious illness, long-term health problems, and loss of life from COVID-19. - CEO Dennis W. Pullin, Virtua Health

Staffing shortages have plagued health care systems, and neither group would provide specific data about what types of positions were lost or whether included doctors and nurses.

Pullin also said the lost workers "represent a variety of roles throughout the health system," and they were working to fill the vacancies.

New Jersey's second largest hospital group, Hackensack Meridian Health, has also mandated vaccine for its workers, but the deadline for them to be vaccinated is Nov. 15. HMH officials had said 99% of its employees had already been vaccinated.

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