Bellingham nurse says she’s prepared to lose her job to stand up for ‘constitutional rights’
About 300 employees and supporters of PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Washington, held a rally against the statewide vaccine mandate for health care workers and state employees, which requires them to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or possibly lose their job.
“It’s more of a rally to support our constitutional rights and our medical freedom, freedom of choice, which is so incredibly important right now because they are being threatened,” Nancy Hill, a cardiac nurse, told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show. “They’re trying to be stripped away. And if we don’t take a stand for our constitutional rights then we all stand to lose all of them.”
“This is the time that we need to stand up and say no. Enough is enough,” she said. “This is not acceptable. They will uphold our constitutional rights. What the government is trying to do is they are trying to strip away our rights. It is unconstitutional. It is unethical. It is illegal. And we are challenging that. We are absolutely going to challenge that. We will take it as far as we need to go because they are trying to bully us.”
The vaccine mandate announced by Gov. Jay Inslee earlier this week applies to most state workers, as well as workers in private health care, long-term care, and other congregate settings. Vaccinations must be completed by Oct. 18.
There can be exemptions for deeply held religious convictions or individuals with certain medical conditions. Employees who decline the vaccine without an approved exception, however, will be subject to disciplinary measures, which encompass termination.
There is no constitutional right in jeopardy under a vaccinate mandate. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1905 during the Jacobson v. Massachusetts case, to uphold the authority of states to enact compulsory vaccination laws.
Additionally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has addressed that it’s legal under federal law for companies to require employees get vaccinated before entering the workplace. Exceptions are made for pregnancy, religious beliefs, and health complications.
The EEO states: “The federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, subject to the reasonable accommodation provisions of Title VII and the ADA and other EEO considerations.”
Hill says she knows that she stands to lose her job. She’s a single mother of five, homeschools her kids, and takes care of her parents at home.
“I am standing here knowing that I am putting myself at risk,” she said. “But if it means that one person gets their rights upheld then it’s worth it for me because that is my job as a nurse. That is why I signed up to be a nurse, to help protect my community, my people, and now I can’t even protect myself.”
“That is not acceptable. And that is why we are taking a stand for our constitutional rights. I am not here to bad mouth anybody. I’m not here to bad mouth this hospital. I want that on the record,” she continued. “But I absolutely am standing up for my constitutional rights, which will be upheld at a Supreme Court level. And we always take a stand because if we don’t, we will lose it all.”
Hill told Dori that today is her day off, but she’s choosing to be at this rally.
The United States is currently averaging more than 116,000 new coronavirus infections a day, along with about 50,000 hospitalizations — levels not experienced since the winter surge. Unlike other points in the pandemic, hospitals now have more non-COVID patients for everything from car accidents to surgeries that were postponed during the outbreak.
That has put even more burden on nurses who were already fatigued after dealing with constant death among patients and illnesses in their ranks.
“Anecdotally, I’m seeing more and more nurses say, ‘I’m leaving, I’ve had enough,’” said Gerard Brogan, director of nursing practice with National Nurses United, an umbrella organization of nurses unions across the county. “’The risk to me and my family is just too much.’”
Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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