SOUTH ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOV.com) - Demonstrators took to the sidewalk outside of Mercy Hospital South on Tuesday upset over the hospital’s policy regarding flu vaccinations for employees.

Demonstrators say at least one nurse has been terminated after her request for a religious exemption was denied.

Nearly two dozen demonstrators stood on the sidewalk, many were holding signs. Many said the same nurse had previously been granted an exemption when the facility was known as St. Anthony’s Medical Center. Mercy acquired it in 2017.

“You’ve got educated doctors and nurses who have applied for these exemptions for Mercy and have been forced to get a vaccine against their choice because their medical and religious exemptions have been denied,” said demonstrator Nelia Aubuchon.

Mercy released the following statement about the situation:

The point of our flu vaccination policy is simple: protection against the flu virus saves lives, especially those of our most vulnerable patients. Requiring health care co-workers to be vaccinated for the flu is a best practice across the U.S. to ensure the safety of patients, co-workers and community members. Mercy revised our flu vaccination policy several years ago and requires compliance with the policy by all Mercy co-workers as a condition of employment.

Across Mercy’s workforce of more than 44,000 co-workers, we received approximately 170 exemption requests this year. The majority of those requests have been accepted for meeting valid medical or religious exemption criteria. Those co-workers whose exemption requests were not accepted will be notified this week and, in accordance with our policy, will not be permitted to remain employed without receiving a vaccination. This is an important step in protecting our patients, visitors and co-workers.

Another hospital told News 4 employees or volunteers who are exempted from flu vaccinations are encouraged to wear a mask during flu season.

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