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A hospital in upstate New York will stop giving birth later this month because too many maternity workers have quit rather than being vaccinated against COVID-19.

Lewis County Health System CEO Gerald Cayer announced at a press conference on Friday that the maternity ward will close on September 25 until enough new vaccinated employees can be hired to reopen safely.

Seven of the 30 employees who quit the hospital rather than get the COVID shot were working in the maternity ward, according to Cayer. Twenty-one of them held clinical positions, including nurses, therapists and technicians.

“We are not able to staff the department safely after September 24. The number of resignations received leaves us with no choice but to suspend the delivery at Lewis County General Hospital,” said Cayer. “I hope the Department of Health will work with us to suspend the service rather than shutting down the maternity ward. “

Services in five other departments may also be reduced if more staff decide to leave rather than get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Essential health services are not threatened by the mandate,” Cayer said. “The mandate ensures that we will have a healthy workforce and we are not responsible for [causing COVID-19] transmission in or out of our facilities.

The deadline for all health care workers in the state to get vaccinated is September 27. Some 165 of the hospital’s roughly 650 workers still had not been vaccinated by Friday and had yet to declare what they planned to do, Cayer said.

Thirty previously unvaccinated healthcare workers at the hospital have now received at least one injection.

The health care system previously had one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state, but it is now “better than average,” Cayer said, with 464 staff members – 73% – at least partially vaccinated.

Cayer said that when asked if he supports mandatory vaccines for healthcare workers, his answer was “unequivocal, yes.”

He added: “As employees, we have an obligation not to endanger those we care about or our colleagues.”

Lewis County had the highest rate of COVID-19 positivity in all of the state over three days on Friday, Cayer said.

Cayer’s entire press conference can be viewed at the top.

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