SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A nurse says her firing from Cox Hospital was unjustified. Carla Brock refused to get a flu vaccine and then to wear a surgical mask at work.
This is the first year that CoxHealth has made flu vaccinations mandatory for all employees, but there are exceptions. If you get one and there's a flu outbreak, like now, the hospital says you have to wear a mask, but Brock says that policy is flawed and the hospital didn't follow it anyway.
Brock is health-conscious.
"Nutrition really is the basis of health," she said Tuesday evening at her home as she fried homemade tortilla chips in coconut oil.
The holistic nurse says she'd never intentionally do anything to put her health or her patients' health at risk. But she won't get the flu vaccine, and she won't wear a mask.
"The flu vaccine, specifically, I am highly 100 percent opposed to. Each vaccine is predicated on last year's strains, for one. It's well established that people who get the vaccine still get sick," she said.
Brock got a religious exemption from CoxHealth, but a few weeks ago she and the rest of the 3 percent of exempt hospital employees were required to wear surgical masks.
Her objection is based both on principle ("The whole premise that the vaccinated people are safe, which is flawed and unproven, it just didn't make sense that we were being isolated and singled out to wear the mask.") and practicality (Brock says wearing a mask made doing her job very difficult.) She typically talks to patients for one or two hours each and having the mask on made it tough for her to be understood, plus her glasses would fog up so she had trouble seeing them.
She wore it four shifts then stopped and was fired. Cox maintains this is not the norm.
"I have had no employee pushback regarding the mask," said Vicki Good, director of Patient Safety for the hospital.
Good says human resources decides what to do if policy is violated, but Brock says Cox violated its own policy.
"If you can't receive the vaccination, you wear a mask," said Good.
"Or may be placed on a leave status until the outbreak is over," Brock read to us from the policy manual.
She says she wasn't given the option to take time off and now she has unlimited and unwanted time off.
"What has taken place here, based on their policies I found, they wrongfully fired me," Brock said.
She says she's a proponent of wearing surgical masks for protection but not in this kind of situation. She says, more than anything, she wants the hospital to reconsider her position and give her her job back.
CoxHealth says hospitals all over the country require the same thing of their employees, including Barnes Jewish in St. Louis and the entire hospital system in Colorado.