A hospital system in upstate New York said it would be forced to “suspend” maternity services later this month after employees refusing to be vaccinated against the coronavirus caused a shortage of staff.
The Lewis County health system is seeing massive resignations due to its mandate on the Covid-19 vaccine, putting some services at risk, Lewis County Health System CEO Gerald R. Cayer said on Friday. The maternity ward is already experiencing staff shortages, with at least six resigning to date and seven others who have expressed reluctance to be vaccinated.
“We are not able to staff the service safely after Sept. 24,” Cayer said. “The number of resignations we have received leaves us with no choice but to suspend the delivery at Lewis County General Hospital.”
Hospital administrators are working on “contingency plans” in case more massive resignations endanger other essential services.
The deadline for healthcare workers to receive their first dose of vaccine is September 27, according to New York state law. Medical exemptions are granted to people who are allergic or have had previous adverse reactions to vaccines, with certification from a licensed physician or certified nurse practitioner.
New York State does not allow religious exemptions to its vaccination mandate for healthcare and nursing home workers, noting that the state already eliminated religious exemptions in 2019 during an outbreak measles.
Cayer said at a county meeting on Friday that he “unequivocally” supported a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. He added that essential services are not threatened because of the mandate, which guarantees a “healthy workforce”.
“As employees, we have an obligation not to endanger those we care for or our colleagues,” Cayer said.
At least 464 staff, or about 73 percent, of the hospital system have been vaccinated and 165 other staff remain unvaccinated. The majority of resignations so far have come from clinical departments, putting a number of areas at risk, Cayer said.
Lewis County currently has a 7-day positivity rate of 5.8%, although the state average remains at 3.2%, according to data from New York state.
President Joe Biden announced Thursday that his administration will issue far-reaching vaccination mandates at the federal level. Employees working in healthcare facilities that receive reimbursement from Medicare or Medicaid will need to be vaccinated, according to Biden.
The Ministry of Labor has been urged to issue an emergency ruling that employers with more than 100 employees should enforce vaccination mandates and weekly tests for the unvaccinated or face a fine of $ 14,000 per violation .
Vaccination warrants could be tested in federal court, especially when the warrants do not accept religious exemptions. Currently, no major organized religion opposes vaccines, and Roman Catholic and other Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders have advised their followers to get vaccinated.
Experts told NBC News that the religious exemption threshold could come down to proving whether the person seeking one had “sincere beliefs” against vaccination on religious grounds, including showing a history of whether she had previously had objections to the vaccine.