An upstate New York hospital will halt the delivery of babies for two weeks following multiple maternity unit staff resignations due to Covid-19 vaccine requirements. WWNY reports that Lewis County General Hospital in Lowville will temporarily stop delivering children after September 24.
Lewis County Health System Chief Executive Officer Gerald Cayer stated at a press conference that six maternity unit staff resigned rather than get the vaccine, and seven are undecided. Cayer said the hospital won’t be able to staff the unit safely and will soon have to stop delivering infants. He expressed the hope that the issue is temporary and said he would work with the state Department of Health to ensure that the unit does not close permanently. He stated, “If we can pause the service and now focus on recruiting nurses who are vaccinated, we will be able to re-engage in delivering babies here in Lewis County.” Cayer also said that about 27% of hospital staff had not been vaccinated.
New York State announced in August that all healthcare employees in hospitals and long-term care institutions in the state must have received at least their first dose of the Covid vaccine by September 27. The announcement led to 30 employees getting vaccinated and another 30 resigning. Cayer said, “Our hope is as we get closer [to the deadline], the numbers will increase of individuals who are vaccinated, fewer individuals will leave, and maybe, with a little luck, some of those who have resigned will reconsider. We are not alone. There are thousands of positions that are open north of the Thruway, and now we have a challenge to work through, you know, with the vaccination mandate.”
Cayer insisted that “essential health services are not at risk because of the mandate. The mandate ensures we will have a healthy workforce, and we are not responsible for [causing COVID-19] transmission in or out of our facilities.”
According to a report from NNY 360, employees have suggested weekly testing and wearing masks rather than getting vaccinated, as is usually the case with flu vaccinations or religious exemption from the Covid-19 vaccine. Still, neither is possible under New York state rules. Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo initially designated religious exemptions. However, the exemption was removed from the final version of the regulation. Medical exemptions are possible for specific medical disorders, such as those that decrease immunity or need medicines that lower immunity, with proof from a doctor or nurse practitioner.
The Lewis County Health System is the county’s largest employer and one of only two remaining county-owned hospitals in the state. The Covid vaccine will be mandatory for future employment at the system, and Cayer has said that “anyone who has resigned that changes their mind will be welcomed back.”
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