A hospital in rural New York state has announced it will stop delivering babies — at least temporarily — due to the mass resignation of staff members who are protesting the state’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate.
Five other departments at Lewis County General Hospital in Lowville also could face a pause in services due to resignations, Lewis County Health System CEO Gerald Cayer said Friday, according to the Watertown Daily Times.
Cayer said the hospital will not deliver babies after Sept. 24.
Six employees of the maternity unit resigned rather than be vaccinated against COVID-19, Cayer said, adding that another seven employees remain undecided.
Cayer said 165 hospital employees aren’t vaccinated, while 464 are at least partially.
Last month, the state ordered all health-care workers in hospitals and long-term-care facilities to have at least one shot of a vaccination by Sept. 27.
“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,” Cayer said, according to WWNY-TV.
“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,” he said, referring to the vast stretch of rural northern New York state in the Adirondack Mountain region.
“We are unable to safely staff the service after Sept. 24. The number of resignations received leaves us no choice but to pause delivering babies at Lewis County General Hospital. It is my hope that the (state) Department of Health will work with us in pausing the service rather than closing the maternity department,” he told the Daily Times.
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Cayer said that if the maternity service can be paused, the hospital can focus on recruiting vaccinated nurses and “reengage” in delivering babies in Lewis County.
In a statement, Cayer said 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 transmission in or out of our facilities,” he said.
Cayer said the hospital has tried to persuade employees to be vaccinated.
“We truly have worked hard to educate, encourage, cajole (and) support individuals to get comfortable with receiving the vaccine, but we are not passing judgment on any single person who says it’s not right for them,” Cayer said.
“We don’t want to lose anyone. We would like everyone to get vaccinated, but we also understand we live in a country where you get to choose certain things, and if you choose not to be vaccinated … you can’t work in health care. We just simply respect, we thank for service, and we each move forward.”
Cayer said all new hires will be required to be vaccinated, but he said those who resigned but get their shots will not be banned from returning.
“We’ve been very clear,” Cayer told the Daily Times. “Anyone who has resigned that changes their mind will be welcomed back.”