Andrea Babinski never imagined she would be forced to get a vaccine to keep her nursing job.
“When people would say stuff like, ‘Oh, mask mandates today and slippery slope to vaccine mandates tomorrow,’ I thought, ‘No, that’s crazy. That sounds like a conspiracy theory, like wacko people,'” she said.
For the medical-surgical nurse who worked at Gundersen Health Systems for 12 years, it was never about politics. Due to several autoimmune issues, Babinski decided medically the shot was not the best decision for her.
She told me this over the phone, not from a hospital break room but from her home, because on Nov. 16, Babinski was fired from the La Crosse, Wisconsin hospital for declining to take a Covid shot.
Babinski isn’t an anomaly. She’s one of an untold number of health-care workers and other hospital staff across the country who have been denied basic informed consent where it should be valued most, and have thus either resigned or been fired for their private medical decisions.
Meanwhile, while the expert class, COVID hysterics, and even the president of the United States repeatedly rattle off talking points about overflowing ICUs and the “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” they ignore the real crisis plaguing hospitals and their role in creating it.
That crisis is a massively understaffed hospital system as qualified and willing-to-work medical personnel have been thanklessly terminated. Thanks to coercive vaccine mandates, which the U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld, hospitals are hemorrhaging employees and patients are not receiving care they desperately need.
Inside Hospital Walls
Gundersen Health Systems illuminates this widespread problem. Thanks to bad reporting and a severe lack of transparency, this Wisconsin health system and its egregious management have flown under the radar.
Former Gundersen employees, who were terminated as a result of the mandate, know what life is like inside the hospital walls. They watched dirty laundry pile up and eventually be thrown away when there were no hands to tend to it. They saw the cafeteria whittle its offerings to PB&Js when there was nobody to staff it. They witnessed beds go unfilled because the qualified nurses who could have tended to ailing patients — and did unflinchingly through the most serious months of the pandemic — were fired for their personal medical decisions.
It started in August when Gundersen implemented a staff vaccine mandate, which employees first learned about not through the hospital but when it was leaked to the press. Gundersen’s official announcement was accompanied by the claim that about 85 percent of staff had already been vaccinated, a statistic the media uncritically parroted.
The problem is that it apparently wasn’t a real statistic. According to multiple former employees, the hospital didn’t learn about staff vaccination statuses until after touting that percentage. Babinski said staff members were threatened with termination if they didn’t report their vaccination status through Gundersen’s Covid Attestation Form by early September, weeks after the hospital had declared what percentage of staff had gotten the shot.
Gundersen did not respond to The Federalist’s inquiries about how it calculated 85 percent.
At the beginning of November, after the mandate deadline, Gundersen and local news reported “30 out of 9,000 employees terminated over vaccine rule,”and “62 resigned rather than receive COVID-19 vaccine.” Reports also noted that “[n]inety-nine percent of Gundersen staff are fully vaccinated or in the process of becoming fully vaccinated.”
But this also apparently wasn’t true. First, many people resigned long before the hospital began terminating, due to poor working conditions, low wages, and frustration with the mandate.
“It was like rats jumping off a sinking ship,” Babinski said. “We had hundreds of people that I [know] personally now … people that just quit leading up to the mandate. They were never given a chance to say the reason they quit, so I don’t know where they got their number.”
Many of these employees were people Babinski had gotten to know by rubbing shoulders with them at mandate-related protests. Others she connected with in a private Facebook group for Gundersen workers against mandatory vaccination, a group The Federalist confirmed has more than 600 members.
Gundersen also failed to grant exit interviews, according to former employees who were denied them and others who were simply never asked why they left. This means the hospital would have no way of knowing how many resignations were a result of vaccine refusal.
Worse, Gundersen was still actively hemorrhaging employees at that time, through continued terminations and resignations, meaning those early numbers are undercounted.
“That was a huge kick in the gut because a lot of us weren’t even fired yet,” Babinski told The Federalist, recounting what it was like to see those reports while knowing she wasn’t among the 30 but would soon be terminated.
It’s a Lot More Than That…
Other metrics also indicate those numbers were dramatically undercounted.
For instance, take a look at the increase in job openings following the announcement of the vaccine mandate. Notice how the positions for CNAs within Gundersen Health Systems jumped from 53 in mid-September to 60 just a few weeks later. It’s also possible these postings are for multiple vacancies, meaning if there’s a need for six day-shift nurses in the cardio-pulmonary unit, for example, the job might only be listed once.
Since then, Gundersen’s vacancies have only continued to skyrocket. Postings for CNAs have now jumped to 85, and posted vacancies for nurses spiked from 89 after the mandate was announced to 141 as of Wednesday, a more than 58 percent increase that occurred mostly after the reports of only 30 terminations and 62 resignations
This staff hemorrhaging was on top of other worker shortages resulting from alleged poor wages and working conditions. Nursing staff watched as environmental assistants, who are responsible for custodial duties, left their posts in droves after their wages were lowered in 2021.
“Why work for Gundersen when you can easily make more money at Culvers, Kwik Trip or Walmart?” one RN wrote in a community impact statement. She had been granted a religious exemption but was so disgusted by the letter’s language that she resigned anyway. This RN reported that as a result of low-wage staff jumping ship, nurses had to use the bare minimum of linens, even going so far as to craft makeshift pillowcases out of hospital gowns.
“This shortage of low-wage staff had direct impacts on patient care. Patients would go without clean linens and towels,” David Anderson, who was a nurse in Gundersen’s Behavioral Health Unit for nearly a decade before being fired in November as a result of the vaccine mandate, told The Federalist.
“During one of my shifts as a charge nurse, my staff had to give patients washcloths to use as towels, because washcloths were the only clean laundry to be found,” he added. “Trashes around the hospital were overflowing, floors were dirty, and laundry sat in hampers for days with nobody to wash it — hospital laundry, festering with feces, urine, vomit, and blood. Tens of thousands of dollars of it had to be thrown away.”
Trying to mitigate these severe staffing shortages, Gundersen sought volunteers among its medical professionals to help with hospital cleaning, meaning that after it dropped wages for environmental assistants, nurses could make their normal rate of anywhere from $32 to $50 per hour for doing janitorial work.
‘How Much Worse Is It Going to Get?’
The shortages extended to nurses as well, long before the vaccine mandate made them much worse.
“Within the hospital, nursing shortages have led to unsafe staffing situations where nurses and CNAs are being forced to take more patients than what is safe due to there not being enough nursing staff present. Patients are being forgotten on bed pans or are falling because there is simply not enough staff to safely take care of them,” wrote the RN who resigned after acquiring a religious exemption.
She said that one weekend in October, Gundersen had to shut down a dozen beds in the hospital due to nursing shortages. She added that the hospital has also canceled heart valve replacement surgeries because it didn’t have enough staff to take care of post-op patients.
“Now just imagine, if this is the current staffing reality at Gundersen, how much worse is it
going to get when Gundersen fires hundreds more in November due to the vaccine mandate?” she said.
The Post-Screw-Up Scramble
As a result of the largely self-inflicted staffing crisis, Gundersen has been scrambling for workers and trying to find loopholes.
“We cannot simply create more RNs,” came the desperate email from corporate, reviewed by The Federalist, asking the hospital’s medical-surgical nurses to move shifts to plug holes. Even some terminated nurses were still on the open-shift texting list, which blew up non-stop with urgent requests.
Now Gundersen and other local hospitals, including Mayo Clinic Health System, are calling on the National Guard for help due to this self-imposed shortage of staff and thus beds — a shortage they’re simultaneously blaming on the vaccinated being out with the virus and unvaccinated staff who didn’t obey the mandate, a stunning lack of self-awareness.
“It’s been very challenging to try to staff the units with staff being out with Covid or not being compliant to being vaccinated,” said Renee Groth, a nurse manager at Mayo.
One nurse who worked at both Mayo and Gunderson throughout the pandemic told The Federalist that Mayo is even worse with its aggression toward unvaccinated employees. Gunderson is now throwing job offers to staff members who were fired or resigned from Mayo over the same types of mandates.
In an attempt to make up for the huge staffing holes, Gundersen is also bringing in travel nurses after kicking their own dedicated staff to the curb. It’s a convenient loophole for the hospital; after firing unvaccinated staff, it can then use unvaccinated travel nurses because they’re technically employed by a travel agency, not directly by Gundersen.
Many full-time nurses who lost their jobs have since become travel nurses or are considering doing so because they can maintain their medical freedom but still work — plus, travel nurses receive double or triple the wage rates of a normal nurse. This, of course, raises questions about what will happen to health care costs when prices are unnecessarily inflated.
Power Before Patients
This is all to be expected from hospitals that go along with absurd medical edicts from on high that they can see are decimating standards of care. When asked during a September leadership town hall about his plan to help departments that could lose upwards of 25 percent of their staff due to the vaccine mandate, Gundersen CEO Scott Rathgaber responded:
“Hear me say that if we have to decrease the ability to deliver services in order to preserve the staff that we have, we will do so in the short term until we can build that back up. … If we do have staffing shortages, we will have to adjust ultimately what services we can provide. … It’s as simple as math, and having enough people to do the work.”
In other words, if Gundersen had to turn needy patients away or shut down medical services in order to force performative morality through vaccine compliance, that was a price it was willing to pay. Except the hospital hasn’t ultimately paid it; its staff and patients have.
So are medical workers and patients across the rest of the country. Gundersen is just the tip of the iceberg.