Large crowd protests Valley Health employee vaccine mandate

WINCHESTER, Virginia (WHSV) – A large crowd came to Winchester Medical Center Monday to protest Valley Health’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

“I’m only in favor of an informed decision. I think everyone should have the right to all valid information, advantages and disadvantages before a medical procedure, and then it is up to the individual to make a choice, ”said Darrell Volschke, a chiropractor and one of the protesters.

On July 19, Valley Health announced that employees must now receive a COVID-19 vaccine or face suspension or termination by November 1. Several Valley Health employees are protesting the decision.

“We’d love to see them change their guidelines, it’s not difficult, it’s an obvious choice,” said Brad McDowell, a registered nurse at Valley Health. “Everyone has a personal decision about what goes into their body, everyone does that, that is a God-given right.”

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

A group of counter-protesters also backed Valley Health’s decision, and there was some screaming and tension between the two groups.

“We’re just adding to the horrific hospital stays and the cost of the economy, of education, when kids can’t go back to school in the fall, shame on the antivaxxers,” said Kate Simpson, one of the counter-demonstrators.

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 our staff, doctors and nurses are vaccinated,” said Simpson.

Some of the protesters say Valley Health is forcing its employees and that the policy should be the same as for a flu shot.

“Informed choice can’t be coercive, you can’t threaten people with their job, you can give them the option, just like here with the flu shot, people can keep their jobs, but they have to wear a mask,” said Darrell Volschke. “So why doesn’t it work and why is it an all-or-nothing policy?”

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

Valley Health is committed to the safety of our patients, employees and the community. Almost ¾ of our employees have already received the COVID-19 vaccination; This policy is intended to encourage those who have not yet been vaccinated to put in place a process for those seeking religious or medical exemption and to adequately inform those who choose not to seek alternative employment. Since our announcement, our vaccination rate has continued to rise and we sincerely thank every caregiver who has taken this important safety step.

We respect the right of those who want to peacefully express their feelings about our decision to obtain vaccination to protect our patients. We continue to meet with our team to explain the guidelines and share the facts about these safe, effective vaccines. We want to be the safest place in the country to get medical care and we take our obligation very seriously to provide the best possible healing environment for our patients.

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

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