New York hospital to stop delivering babies as staff quit over vaccine rules

A hospital in upstate New York will at least temporarily stop delivering babies later this month, after too many employees resigned over a Covid-19 vaccination mandate.

“We are unable to safely staff the service after 24 September,” Gerald Cayer, chief executive of the Lewis County Health System, told reporters.

“The number of resignations received leaves us no choice but to pause delivering babies at Lewis county general hospital.”

Amid alarm over the highly infectious Delta variant and continued evidence that vaccines are both safe and effective, New York state has required healthcare workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

The mandate makes room for medical exemptions but excludes religious ones. Hospitals and nursing homes must comply by 27 September.

Nearly three-fourths of staff in the Lewis County Health System have received the jab, insluitend 30 employees after the mandate was announced in August.

But another 30 have resigned – 21 from clinical areas – and 165 remain unvaccinated, leaders say.

“Essential health services are at risk,” Cayer said. “Not because of the mandate. The mandate ensures we will have a healthy workforce and that we are not responsible for transmission in or out of our facilities.”

Already chronically short-staffed, the Lewis county general hospital maternity department took a debilitating hit after six employees resigned from the obstetrics service. Another seven are still deciding whether to get vaccinated or leave.

Officials cannot adequately staff the maternity department and newborn nursery. The unit’s nurse manager was already working shifts as a staff nurse to fill out the schedule.

Patients may now have to rely on other facilities for maternity and postpartum care. Other departments are at risk and the hospital strongly encourages staff to get the shot.

“I have been asked several times if I support the vaccination mandate for healthcare workers and others,” Cayer said. “The answer is unequivocally yes.”

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