KANKAKEE — Some 62 full-time equivalent employees — roughly 2 percent of the Riverside Healthcare workforce — were placed on a two-week unpaid suspension Monday for failing to comply with the health care system’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

The deadline for receiving the vaccination was Oct. 31.

These staff members will be on suspension until Nov. 15, their deadline to become vaccinated or face termination. Riverside officials expressed hope that all of its employees “will choose to comply and return to work during this period.”

In addition, Riverside administrators stated that 97 percent of its 2,913 employees are in full compliance with the vaccination requirement.

Riverside has 57 employees who gained a court-ordered restraining order on Friday from a Kankakee County judge blocking them from being either fired or suspended until a Jan. 11 hearing is conducted on an injunction to block the hospital from taking action against them regarding not complying with the vaccination requirement.

AMITA Health St. Mary’s Hospital staff members who have not gained a vaccination exemption have until Nov. 12 to become vaccinated or they will face a suspension or termination.

The 57 Riverside employees who are part of the restraining order are required to follow the same strict safety protocols as those who gained religious/strongly held beliefs or medical exemptions.

“We remain confident that the court will ultimately determine that our vaccination requirement is fair and valid, as well as clearly focused on protecting the health and safety of everyone we serve,” the administration noted in a prepared statement.

The administration also stressed Riverside is fully prepared and stands ready to care for patients who need its services.

They noted they will continue closely monitoring staffing and patient levels to prevent disruptions and ensure continued delivery of the “highest quality care in the safest environment possible.”

The administration also expressed its gratitude to its patients, team members, providers and community for the understanding and support “as we take the steps necessary to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in our area.”

Lee Provost, an award-winning reporter, has been writing local news stories for The Daily Journal since 1988. He is a lifelong resident of the region. Provost can be reached at lprovost@daily-journal.com.