Riverside ER

The Riverside Medical Center emergency room entrance.

KANKAKEE — Riverside Healthcare has terminated 40 employees for noncompliance with its COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

On Nov. 1, the hospital placed 62 employees on a two-week unpaid suspension for failing to become vaccinated by a Oct. 31 deadline. Kyle Benoît, Riverside’s chief operating officer, said of those, 35 percent (or 22 employees) became vaccinated and will remain in their positions. When the suspension period concluded on Monday, the 40 employees who still had not complied with the requirement were informed they were no longer employed.

“We were happy to see more employees become vaccinated,” Benoit said. “We wish it would have been 100 percent of them.”

Not included in Monday’s terminations are the 57 employees who gained a court-issued restraining order from a Kankakee County judge that protects them from being either fired or suspended until a Jan. 11 hearing on an injunction seeking to bar the hospital from firing unvaccinated employees.

That number now stands at 56 as one of the employees covered by the order has voluntarily left her position at the hospital.

The employees are required to follow the same strict safety protocols as those who gained religious/strongly held beliefs or medical exemptions. Any employee denied an exemption by a review panel was required to become vaccinated or face termination.

When the Oct. 31 deadline was reached, the hospital administration said 97 percent of its 2,900-person workforce had been vaccinated.

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.