A hospital in upstate New York will stop delivering babies later this month after 30 staffers quit in protest of the facility’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Lewis County Health System CEO Gerald Cayer announced at a press conference on Friday that Lewis County General Hospital will be “unable to safely staff” its maternity department beginning Sept. 25.
“The number of resignations received leaves us no choice but to pause delivering babies at Lewis County General Hospital,” Cayer said.
The resignations came after the hospital two weeks ago revised its emergency regulation requiring vaccines for employees, taking away the option for a religious exemption. Medical exemptions, however, are still permitted.
The policy change followed an announcement from then-New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoZeldin says he's in remission after treatment for leukemia Letitia James holding private talks on running for New York governor: report Governors brace for 2022 after year in pandemic spotlight MORE (D) that said all health care workers in the state must be at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 27.
Of the 30 employees who resigned from Lewis County General Hospital, 21 work in clinical areas, according to Cayer.
He said that 464 individuals in the Lewis County Health System are vaccinated, a 73 percent vaccination rate for its employees.
There are still, however, 165 individuals who are not vaccinated and have not yet signaled what their plans are as the Sept. 27 deadline to receive a first shot inches closer.
Three employees have been approved for medical exemptions, and 12 have said they plan to present a medical exemption, Cayer said, adding the hospital is still waiting to view that documentation.
Cayer warned that other clinical departments in the hospital are at risk because of the number of unvaccinated individuals working in those departments.
"We as employees have an obligation not to put those we care for, or our coworkers, at risk," he added.
The CEO said all hospital employees — including members of medical and nursing staff, contract staff, volunteers, and students — are required to abide by the mandate.
Since the mandate was announced, 30 additional employees from the hospital have gotten vaccinated, according to Cayer.
The coronavirus is already affecting hospital employees. According to Cayer, five individuals are in quarantine, five others are in isolation, and four community members are hospitalized with the virus.
The controversy at the New York hospital comes amid a nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases, driven largely by the highly contagious delta variant, which is now the dominant strain in the U.S.