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Large crowd protests Valley Health employee vaccine mandate

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 6:21 PM EDT
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WINCHESTER, Va. (WHSV) - A large crowd came out to the Winchester Medical Center Monday to protest Valley Health’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

“I’m just for informed choice I think everybody before a medical procedure should be done, they should have the right to all valid information, pros and cons and then it’s up to the individual to make a choice,” said Darrell Volschke, a chiropractor and one of the protestors.

On July 19 Valley Health announced that it is now requiring employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine by November 1 or face suspension or termination. A number of Valley Health employees are protesting the decision.

“We’d like to see them change their policy, it’s not hard, it’s an obvious choice,” said Brad McDowell a registered nurse with Valley Health. “Everyone has personal choice over what goes into their body, everyone does that’s a God given right.”

“If you want to get the vaccine go right ahead, just do it, but we should have a choice whether or not we should get the vaccine and this is not just here in Winchester this everywhere in the United States and it’s unacceptable,” said Brittany Watson, a registered nurse at Valley Health who organized the protest.

A group of counter-protestors also came out in support of Valley Health’s decision, and there was some yelling and tension between the two groups.

“We’re just increasing the terrible hospitalizations and costs on the economy, on education, if kids can’t go back to school in the fall shame on the antivaxxers,” said Kate Simpson, one of the counter-protestors.

She adds that health care workers took an oath to protect their patients. “We only want to be able to go to a hospital when we know that our staff and doctors and nurses are vaccinated,” said Simpson.

Some of those protesting say Valley Health is coercing its employees and that the policy should be the same as it is for a flu shot.

“Informed choice can not come with coercion, you cannot be threatening people with their job, you can give them the option just like here with the flu shot, the people are allowed to keep their job but they must wear a mask,” said Darrell Volschke. “So why can’t that be done with this and why is it an all or nothing policy?”

WHSV reached out to Valley Health for a comment and they sent a statement from Mark Nantz, Valley Health’s President and CEO. You can read Nantz’s full statement below:

Valley Health is committed to the safety of our patients, staff and community. Nearly ¾ of our employees have already received the COVID-19 vaccination; this policy is intended to encourage those not yet vaccinated to do so, create a process for those requesting religious or medical exemption, and provide adequate notice for those who choose to do neither to seek other employment. Since our announcement, our vaccination rate has continued to climb and we offer our sincere thanks to each caregiver who has chosen to take this important safety step.

We respect the right of those who choose to peacefully express their feelings regarding our decision to require vaccination for the safety of our patients. We are continuing to meet with our team to explain the policy and share the facts about these safe, effective vaccines. We want to be the safest place in the country to receive healthcare and we take very seriously our obligation to provide an optimal healing environment for our patients.

Valley Health’s vaccination policy is aligned with the recommendations of the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Hospital Association and more than 50 other organizations and a growing number of hospital systems taking similar steps nationwide.

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