COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Nurses at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center are demanding to negotiate the hospital’s decision to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for its staff.

A letter Tuesday from the Ohio State University Nurses Organization to a labor relations official at Wexner Medical Center outlined the demand.

“We are formally demanding to bargain the implementation of a new mandatory vaccine requirement for the COVID vaccine, including, but not limited to the topics of the timeline, exceptions, discipline, and compensation for time missed due to vaccine side effects,” reads the letter signed by nurses organization President Rick Lucas. “Mandating vaccines without negotiation will only result in more people leaving the bedside at a time when staffing levels are already low following the trauma of the past year.”

Lucas said some of the things the union wants to negotiate are paid time off for possible vaccine side effects, discipline, exemptions, testing if someone does not get the vaccine, and other issues.

Lucas said the vaccine is the best tool against COVID-19, but mandating it is not the way to go.

“So, we’re definitely proponents for folks getting vaccinated, but we also have lots of other issues to contend with and folks being able to make their own choices is one of those things,” he said.

Earlier Tuesday, Wexner Medical Center had joined several other Columbus-area hospital systems — including OhioHealth and Nationwide Children’s — in announcing that it would mandate vaccinations for its employees. Wexner Medical Center set a deadline of Oct. 15 for staff to have either received a first dose of the vaccine or provided an approved exemption.

According to Wexner Medical Center CEO Dr. Hal Paz, more than 72% of its 27,000 employees were already vaccinated.

A statement from Wexner said adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the system’s existing vaccination policy is “critical.”

We’ve received the Ohio Nurses Association’s request to bargain. We have an existing non-discretionary vaccine policy, and adding the COVID-19 vaccination to this existing policy is critical to protect our community, our patients and our workforce against this highly contagious disease that is causing cases to increase once again in Ohio. We’re pleased that more than 75% of our faculty and staff are already fully or partially vaccinated. We have been talking with the union about this addition to our policy for some time with no objections. Our existing process will be applied, and we will work with our staff on appropriate exemptions pursuant the policy, including for medical and religious reasons. We look forward to continued, positive labor relations with the nursing union, including ongoing dialogue about the health and safety of our patients and our workforce.

Ohio State University Wexner Medical System

The union said it has held some initial conversations with the hospital Wednesday and hopes to formally negotiate next week.