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Hospital Has To "Pause Delivering Babies" After Staffers Quit Over Vaccine Mandate

“The number of resignations received leaves us no choice but to pause delivering babies.”

A statewide vaccine mandate requiring all healthcare workers in New York to obtain a Covid-19 vaccine before the end of the month has left one hospital grappling with how to continue providing vital health services despite dozens of resignations. Lewis County General Hospital in upstate New York announced Friday it will soon be unable to continue offering maternity services like labor and delivery or postpartum care due to several staff members' refusal to get vaccinated.

“We are unable to safely staff the service after September 24,” Lewis County Health System CEO Gerald Cayer told reporters at a press conference Friday. “The number of resignations received leaves us no choice but to pause delivering babies at Lewis County General Hospital.”

At least six of the hospital’s maternity staff members have recently resigned over the vaccine mandate, Cayer said, adding that another seven maternity unit employees remain unvaccinated and, reportedly, undecided on what they will do. Lewis County General has reached out to the state’s Department of Health for support in merely pausing maternity and newborn services at the hospital until adequate staffing can be found rather than closing the departments for good.

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Then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a statewide Covid-19 vaccine mandate for all healthcare workers in August. Individuals employed in hospitals and long-term care facilities such as nursing homes or adult care centers were given until Sept. 27 to receive their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. While the mandate initially allowed for religious exemptions, the state’s Department of Health eventually nixed such exemptions, according to News 10.

Although Lewis County General will no longer be able to assist expectant patients in delivering babies, hospital officials have said they hope to continue providing as many outpatient women’s health services as possible. “Our outpatient women’s health office is not going to change,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sean Harney said during Friday’s press conference. “We’ll try to offer as much of the women’s health services that we can right at the health system. It’s just the maternity department and newborn nursery that are not going to be fully staffed.”

Until adequate staffing can be found, Harney said pregnant patients will likely be referred to other facilities when in their third trimester to arrange for maternity services and postpartum care.

But care and services offered by some of the hospital’s other departments could also be disrupted should unvaccinated staff not opt to obtain a Covid-19 vaccine. According to Cayer, 464 employees within the Lewis County Health System are already vaccinated against Covid-19. Thirty employees have resigned over the mandate while another 165 employees remain unvaccinated and reportedly undecided on whether they will resign or take the vaccine. Their resignations could disrupt the hospital system’s ability to provide services across a number of clinical departments.

“We are encouraging staff to get vaccinated,” Cayer said. “We as employees have an obligation not to put those we care for or our co-workers at risk ... The mandate ensures that we will have a healthy workforce and that we are not responsible for transmission in or out of our facilities.”