This is the 14th in a series of stories of people being fired from their jobs because they have declined to take the required Covid-19 vaccination. The identities of these workers are being kept confidential because they fear reprisal. Previous interviews in this series are listed and linked at the bottom of this story. Send your story to [email protected].
Candace is a soft-spoken Yupik-Athabaskan who, up until Friday, was employed in record-keeping at the Alaska Native Medical Center, where she has worked for many months. It was a good job for her, and a fit for her skills and her educational degree.
She didn’t want to get the Covid-19 vaccine and had known for a few weeks that Friday would be her last day. But the news still hit her hard and has caused her to become depressed.
About an hour before her shift ended on Friday, she found she was locked out of her computer. She needed to input some patient information, and so called the IT department, thinking that she had accidentally hit the wrong keys. But IT told her that the Human Resources department had locked her out.
Candace asked a coworker to input the information under her coworker’s own log-in permissions. And then Candace said her goodbyes to her coworkers and left work for the last time. Many of her coworkers didn’t want the vaccine, but took it to keep their jobs, per the mandate from ANMC.
Candace has received no letter of termination from ANMC Human Resources. But a couple of weeks earlier, knowing she would be fired, Candace submitted her letter of resignation. She felt that wasn’t right — she knew she was being fired, and so she rescinded her letter and made ANMC fire her instead.
Candace is one of an unknown number of ANMC, Southcentral Foundation, and Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium workers whose last day was Friday. They are the unvaccinated and now unemployed. Must Read Alaska is keeping their identities secret because they face existential threats to their livelihoods.
For Candace, it’s a religious reason, grounded in her Christian faith. ANTHC has told workers that due to the tribal nature of ANTHC and its entities, no religious exemptions would be accepted.
“What if it was part of a Native religion?” Candace wondered, finding it strange that a Native hospital would not honor religious exemptions.
Candace also worries about the unknowns relating to the vaccine. Both her father and brother received it and she said they got extremely sick. She doesn’t know if she should take that chance.
Although her work didn’t involve caring for patients directly, she and other non-nursing staff did have times when they were required to go into patients’ rooms. And while nurses and doctors were fully protected, she said she only had a mask and a face shield when she went into rooms of those who were “symptomatic.”
One of her coworkers got sick, and she thinks it’s because she was not well protected. “If they really cared about our health, why did we not have the protection?” Candace said.
Candace has had Covid, recovered from it, and understands the seriousness of the sickness. But she is trying to find her voice to stand up for what she thinks is right: “If they are for Native people at ANTHC and ANMC, then why are they doing this to our people?”
Without question, Candace is mourning the loss of her job at a place where she was happy to work up until the mandates came down. Now, she’s filling out applications to see if there is another spot for her in the world.
They [ANMC] do have the code of ethics online in the Wellness acrostic, saying how important respect and honor is. I don’t feel respected or honored,” Candace said.
Part XIV: Yupik-Athabaskan worker at Native medical center says goodbye to her job