SILVERTON, Ore, (KPTV) - Close to 100 health care workers and their families went to the Legacy Silverton Medical Center Thursday to leave shoes and notes behind as a final goodbye.

This demonstration was made up of health care workers whose religious exemptions were denied or they're choosing not to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"We're just laying it all down because there's nothing we can do right now. Our hands are tied. We're still employees but we're not fired yet. We're put on admin leave," one Legacy Silverton employee, Amy, said.

She's been with Legacy for 15 years and said she's heartbroken to leave her colleagues and patients but she's not willing to compromise her religious beliefs to get the shot.

Many Legacy Silverton Medical Center employees leave jobs over vaccine mandate

Image: KPTV

This means she's out of a job October 19, just one day after the state's deadline for health care workers to be fully vaccinated.

"I went with my religious exception because my body is a temple for the holy spirit and that's what I believe firmly," Amy said. "To be forced is wrong. It's against our rights, anyone's rights. I don't care if you're religious or not."

The Oregon Nurses Association said they've heard most exemptions at the Silverton Legacy center have been denied, claiming the hospital system is doing blanket rejections. A Legacy spokesperson said they've done a thorough review of each exemption.

Meanwhile, a Providence employee who's worked there for six years said in a meeting Wednesday, she was told they're approving almost all exemptions. She wanted to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation on the job.

"The approval rate for those exemptions are at 96.7% and that they foresee continuing that approval rate of 96.7%," she said. "That is a very high approval rate considering it sounds like the other hospital systems in the region are more at 10% or lower in the approval rate for religious exemptions."

She said she's not only concerned for the health of her patients and colleagues, but that she will lose several more employees at a time they're already stretched thin.

"It's going to create a lot of conflict for staff. I think we're seeing caregivers say they don't feel comfortable working with unvaccinated caregivers," she said.

FOX 12 asked Providence about these numbers, but they said right now, 90% of their Oregon employees are vaccinated. That means about 2,300 employees are left unvaccinated. A spokesperson said these employees are still waiting for their exemption to be processed or they haven't decided what to do yet. They said they don't have exact numbers on who has been approved or denied.

Legacy employees needed to be fully vaccinated by September 30 and Providence employees need to have their final shot by Monday, October 4 to meet the state's deadline of October 18.

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