Health care workers begin clocking out for last time ahead of vaccine mandate

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – It is the final hours before the state’s health care vaccine mandate goes into effect on Friday. Some workers have already begun clocking out for the last time.

Health care workers have the option to get the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine by tomorrow and continue to work or they’ll lose their job.

After 10 years as a nurse in Rhode Island, Rosa Aguiar lost her job.

“It’s been a rollercoaster. Crying, a lot of anxiety medication, I have never been this stressed out in my life,” Aguiar said. “The mental stress that I had since I got that email that I would be terminated because I didn’t show vaccine proof… I cried for days because I love doing this. That’s why I chose to be a nurse.”

Aguiar got let go about a month ago after fighting for a religious exemption. She says her job at HopeHealth Visiting Nurse originally granted her one, but took it away when the state mandate didn’t include any exemptions.

“With the regulations written, they said, unfortunately, we need to match what the state is saying, so we cannot accept your religious exemption. But they would have,” Aguiar said. “I got fired. 9/3 I got fired after being a nurse for 10 years.”

Aguiar immigrated to Rhode Island from the Dominican Republic years ago. She learned English and worked for years to get her license. Now, she’s trying to figure out what’s next – a reality hundreds are also facing as the countdown to the mandate begins.

Paul Rianna, a former CNA at Fatima Hospital, clocked out for the last time yesterday.

“My last day was yesterday,” Rianna said. “Being a CNA and actually growing an attachment to your residents and your patients, it’s kind of heartbreaking knowing that you’re leaving them.”

Rianna says he’s not going to budge. For weeks, he’s been holding rallies outside the hospital and statehouse. Now the day they’ve been hoping to prevent is almost here.

“I want to do the job that I love and what I loved was to take care of these patients and residents,” Rianna said. “We can find other jobs that are not mandated for vaccines, but these patients can’t find more CNA’s because of the short staffing in the state of Rhode Island.”

That short staffing is a major concern for many of the local unions ABC 6 News spoke to. However, local hospitals say their vaccination rates among staff are very high and growing by the minute and that they can contingency plans in the event of shortages.

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Providence, Rhode Island