Lewis County General Hospital in Lowville, NY, will temporarily stop delivering babies, after maternity-ward employees quit rather than be forced to get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to reports. Six employees in the unit resigned over the vaccine mandate, and another seven are undecided about getting the jab, the county health system’s CEO, Gerald Cayer, reported at a news conference Friday, according to WWNY.
“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,” said Cayer.
He said he hopes this is a temporary situation and will work with the state Department of Health to make sure the unit won’t permanently close.
“If we can pause the service and now focus on recruiting nurses who are vaccinated, we will be able to re-engage in delivering babies here in Lewis County,” he said, according to the station. Cayer stated that 27 percent of the hospital’s workers — 165 employees — haven’t gotten the shot.
The state has ordered all health-care workers in New York to get their first shot by Sept. 27 or face termination. After former governor Andrew Cuomo’s August announcement, 30 hospital workers resigned.
Cayer said the announcement prompted 30 workers to get vaccinated, while another 30 resigned.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Services in five other departments may also be curtailed if more staff members decide to leave rather than be vaccinated for COVID-19.
“Essential health services are not at risk because of the mandate,” Cayer said. “The mandate ensures we will have a healthy workforce and we are not responsible for (causing COVID-19) transmission in or out of our facilities.”
Cayer said when he’s asked if he supports mandatory vaccines for health care workers, his answer is “unequivocally, yes.” He added: “We as employees have an obligation not to put those that we care for or our co-workers at risk.”
He added that Lewis County, as a whole, has the state’s highest 7-day average percentage of positive COVID test results reported over the last 3 days.
"It just is a crazy time," Cayer told reporters, emphasizing that the hospital will not be shutting down services. "It’s not just LCHS-centric. Rural hospitals everywhere are really trying to figure out how we’re going to make it work."