A hospital in upstate New York announced that it will temporarily stop delivering babies for at least two weeks due to a shortage of medical staff over COVID-19 vaccination mandates.
Six maternity ward employees at Lewis County General Hospital in Lowville chose to quit their jobs rather than get vaccinated and seven more maternity staff members are still deciding whether or not to resign, WWNY News reports. A total of 30 hospital workers overall have resigned over the vaccine mandate.
Lewis County Health System Chief Executive Officer Gerald Cayer made the announcement Friday, indicating that the hospital will suspend the delivery of babies until after September 24.
"If we can pause the service and now focus on recruiting nurses who are vaccinated, we will be able to reengage in delivering babies here in Lewis County," Cayer said.
Press conference with the Lewis County Health System over pausing baby deliveries:
He revealed that 27 percent, or 165 hospital employees, are not vaccinated against COVID-19, while the other 73 percent have gotten their shots.
The measure begins two days before the final deadline for healthcare workers within the state of New York to get vaccinated if they want to keep their job.
In August, a mandate was issued that all employees at hospitals and long-term care facilities across New York get their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination by September 27.
"The COVID-19 vaccines are effective and when combined with masking, health care workers, patients, residents, visitors, and the larger community are provided the highest level of protection," Cayer said. "We as employees have an obligation not to put those that we care for or our coworkers at risk."
Even though former Gov. Andrew Cuomo designated religious exemptions to be a part of the original regulation, the exception was removed from the final version.
Employees who expressed interest in the religious exemption were instructed to fill out a request form in the event that the exemption was brought back.
Carey has met with employees individually to discuss the issue and receive feedback.
"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 explained.
"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 then now, you can't work in health care. We just simply respect. We thank for service, and we each move forward."
Cayer stressed that COVID-19 vaccinations are necessary to work in the health system, but employment opportunities aren't permanent for those who originally chose to leave.
"We've been very clear, anyone who has resigned that changes their mind will be welcomed back," Cayer said.
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