IU Health suspends hundreds of unvaccinated workers, postpones all inpatient elective surgeries

Editor’s note: This story originally said IU Health had suspended more than 1,000 employees. The hospital system later issued a revised figure, saying that fewer than 300 employees were suspended.

Hundreds of Indiana University Health did not meet Wednesday’s deadline to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and will be suspended immediately, the hospital system confirmed Thursday.

IU Health separately said it would temporarily suspend 100% of inpatient elective surgeries and procedures beginning Monday to relieve pressure on care teams and free up space for critically ill patients. The health system said last week it would suspend 50% of elective surgeries and procedures.

IU Health originally said Thursday that about 97% of the system’s approximately 36,000 employees have complied with the vaccination requirement, which was announced in June. But that means that more than 1,000 have not been vaccinated.

The health system later issued a correction, saying that the 97% compliance figure was an estimate from Wednesday, and the compliance figure is now higher, but it did not provide a new percentage.

“As of today, fewer than 300 team members have been suspended,” the hospital system said in the updated statement Thursday afternoon.

IU Health, the state’s largest hospital system, said unvaccinated workers will be placed on a two-week suspension and will be allowed to return to work if they attest to partial or full vaccination.

“Vaccinating team members is a safe and effective way to protect patients and help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in facilities and in the community,” spokesman Jeff Swiatek told IBJ in an email.

He did not have a figure for how many unvaccinated workers were directly involved in patient care.

IU Health operates the state’s largest hospital, Methodist Hospital, along with 15 others, including IU Health North in Carmel, IU Health Saxony in Fishers and University Hospital on the IUPUI campus.

Another hospital system, Franciscan Health, had also given employees a deadline this week to submit proof of vaccination status. But a hospital spokesman said he didn’t have a figure on the number of workers that were vaccinated by Tuesday’s deadline. The organization employs about 4,100 people in central Indiana, most of them at its largest hospital, Franciscan Health Indianapolis.

Three other hospital systems also have given employees a deadline to get vaccinated: Community Health Network by Sept. 15, Eskenazi Health by Sept. 20 and Ascension St. Vincent by Nov. 12.

Around the United States, more than 150 hospital systems have issued vaccination mandates to employees. Hospitals have borne the brunt of the surge in COVID-19 cases, and many have also reported a growing shortage of nurses and other patient-care workers who have resigned or taken administrative roles

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