Protest Erupts After Nurses Lose Jobs over Santa Rosa Medical Center’s Vax Mandate

Posted on September 16, 2021 by Romi White

Santa Rosa Medical Center CEO Doug Sills was listed on the agenda to appear at the September 14 Milton City Council agenda, so protestors showed up to oppose the hospital’s new COVID-19 vaccination requirements for employees. But Sills was a no show.

“Unfortunately they were not able to be here this evening,” Mayor Heather Lindsay said when the agenda item came up, explaining she had hoped to thank nurses for their work during the pandemic.

However, a spokeswoman for Santa Rosa Medical Center reported Wednesday that it was actually Lindsay who had “postponed the hospital’s appearance.”

Former Santa Rosa Medical Center nurse Molly Jones addressed the Milton City Council on Tuesday. Photo by Romi White.

Molly Jones, a former Santa Rosa Medical Center nurse who says she lost her job last Friday over the hospital’s new employee vaccine requirements, addressed the council.

“I’m not the only one (Sills) has let go,” Jones said. “There are others who just won’t get up and speak.”

SRMC issued a related statement on the issue Wednesday:

“It is not our practice to discuss individual personnel matters. Our hospital stands firm in its commitment to maintain a safe environment for our caregivers and patients. The majority of our caregivers already have chosen to be vaccinated and more are making that choice now. While we have not yet mandated the COVID-19 vaccine, we recently implemented routine COVID-19 testing of any unvaccinated hospital and clinic staff to ensure the safety of our patients, colleagues and others. Employees who do not comply with this routine testing are placed on unpaid leave. In light of the executive order requiring healthcare workers to be vaccinated, we will begin work on implementation plans for that mandate as we await further guidance from CMS.  We appreciate the cooperation of our employees during what is a challenging time for everyone in healthcare.”

Jones and other protestors argue SRMC’s testing requirement is discriminatory since it only requires unvaccinated employees to be tested – despite how vaccinated persons can also spread the virus.

“(SRMC) is trying to say it’s not a vaccine policy but that it’s a testing policy,” Jones said. “Essentially, it’s a vaccine policy…if not, everyone would be tested.”  She went on to say that (SRMC) is trying to “bully and intimidate staff into getting vaccinated” and that Sills ignored her request for an exemption to the vaccine. “He never would even acknowledge that he would accept or deny my exemption.”

Councilwoman Shannon Rice thanked the work of SRMC nurses, pointing out that Jones had been one of her nurses during a hospital stay.

Rice made a motion for the city pass a resolution expressing its support of people’s rights, including their freedom to make their own choices when it comes to wearing masks and any other COVID treatment. It was unanimously approved by her fellow council members.

Furthermore, Rice suggested that in addition to the community protesting the hospital’s actions against employees, the city and county could be asked to withhold certain American Rescue Plan funding from the hospital.

“Money talks,” she said. “I hope that Mr. Sills will listen to that and maybe we can come to an agreement. I needed to make that resolution so that he knows what our values are.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Santa Rosa County Commission on Tuesday voted to oppose vaccination mandates for its employees and also issue a letter to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, supporting his stand against vaccination mandates for government employees.