Gerald Cayer, the CEO of Lewis County Health System, recently announced that Lewis County General Hospital will be “unable to safely staff” its maternity department beginning Sept. 25. Many employees have resigned from the hospital after it implemented a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy. Even religious exemptions were not granted.
The hospital had insisted on vaccination after New York Governor Democrat Andrew Cuomo ordered all healthcare workers in the state to be at least partially vaccinated by Sept. 27.
In total, 30 staffers left; 21 were working in the clinical area. Seventy-three percent in the health system, or 464 employees, have been vaccinated. Three employees have been granted medical exemption; 12 have applied for it; 165 employees remain unvaccinated. It is not clear whether they will take a COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 27.
The CEO stated that the number of resignations “leaves us no choice” but to pause deliveries. “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 said.
He insisted that hospital employees have an “obligation” to not put coworkers and those they care for at risk. Since the vaccine mandate was implemented, 30 employees have taken a jab. Five employees are in quarantine and five more in isolation.
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It was on Aug. 16 that Cuomo announced vaccine mandates for healthcare workers and that the first dose needs to be taken by Sept. 27. When he announced the mandate, 75 percent of the state’s 400,000 hospital workers, 74 percent of the state’s 30,000 adult care facility workers, and 68 percent of the state’s 145,500 nursing home workers had been vaccinated.
“The State Department of Health will issue Section 16 Orders requiring all hospital, LTCF, and nursing homes to develop and implement a policy mandating employee vaccinations, with limited exceptions for those with religious or medical reasons,” a press release stated.
COVID-19 vaccine mandates among healthcare workers pose serious staffing issues. Many employees have already been pushed to the limit due to the pandemic. Forcing them to take a vaccine against their will might force many to quit, which then may have disastrous consequences for healthcare services.
A survey by the American Nurses Association showed that 12 percent of its members do not plan on getting vaccinated. A survey by The Washington Post reported that the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed earlier this year that 20 percent of healthcare workers were hesitant about vaccination and would quit if forced to take the jab.
“The same concerns you’ll find in the general population about lack of data showing the efficacy of the vaccine and concerns about long-term side effects can still be pervasive within parts of the medical community,” Amber Reinhart, an expert on health communication at the University of Missouri-St. Louis told NBC Montana.
According to Alan Levine, chief executive officer of Ballad Health, he opted not to implement a vaccine mandate. He did so after analysis suggested that 15 percent of the workforce, or 900 employees, could potentially leave. Ballad has 21 hospitals and centers in Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina. Ninety-seven percent of doctors have been vaccinated. Among front-line nurses, only 50 percent have taken a COVID-19 vaccine shot.
“The overwhelming number of our nurses are female and young and in childbearing years,” Levine told Bloomberg. There have been reports suggesting that women are wary of getting vaccinated due to the potential risk to fertility posed by mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
Some hospital authorities are confused about contradictory laws on vaccine mandates. Joe Biden recently issued a vaccine mandate for private-sector employees. According to Washington’s six-point plan to pull America out of the pandemic, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is ensuring that 17 million healthcare workers at Medicare and Medicaid participating hospitals get vaccinated.
At the same time, several states have passed rules that ban businesses from enforcing vaccine mandates. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott has banned mandates in the state’s 120 public hospitals.
“I’ve got President Biden telling me he’s going to mandate it, but I have Gov. Abbott who says I cannot mandate it… Do I or don’t I? So I’m just kind of waiting for the dust to settle from yesterday to really sit down with my administrative team and see where we go from here,” Adam Willman told The Texas Tribune. Willman is the chief executive officer of Goodall Witcher Healthcare public hospital in Clifton.