Sept. 13, 2021 -- Lewis County Health System in upstate New York announced Friday that it will pause maternity and delivery services this month due to staffing shortages after some employees quit rather than get a COVID-19 vaccine.
The health system is seeing employee resignations due to the state’s vaccine mandate, and some essential services are at risk, according to NBC News. The maternity unit already has a shortage, with six people resigning so far, while seven others have said they’re unwilling to get vaccinated.
“We are unable to safely staff the service after Sept. 24,” Gerald Cayer, CEO of the health system, said during a news conference.
“The number of resignations received leaves us no choice but to pause delivering babies at Lewis County General Hospital,” he said.
Under a statewide vaccine mandate in New York, the deadline for health care workers to receive the first vaccine dose is Sept. 27. Medical exemptions are being granted for those who are allergic to vaccines or have had previous adverse reactions. New York hasn’t allowed for religious exemptions for health care workers since a measles outbreak in 2019.
Among the hospital system’s staff, 464 people -- or about 73% -- have been vaccinated, NBC News reported. The remaining 165 have not.
As of Friday, 30 employees had resigned. Among those, 21 resignations came from staff members in clinical services. Hospital administrators are working on “contingency plans” in case additional resignations put other services at risk, Cayer said. That could include reassigning nurses from administrative roles to clinical roles.
“We must develop contingency plans for services we believe are at risk,” he said. “We can’t wait to the last minute. We have not been given much time, and it is a hard deadline before us.”
Cayer said he “unequivocally” supports the vaccination mandate for health care workers, which he said ensures a “healthy workforce.” He noted that COVID-19 cases were increasing in Lewis County, which had the highest 7-day and 14-day positivity rates in New York in recent days.
“We as employees have an obligation not to put those we care for or our co-workers at risk,” he said.