Central New York health care workers lose their jobs as religious vaccine exemptions expire


SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The deadline for health care workers who lost their religious exemptions to get the COVID-19 vaccine has passed, and many who are refusing to comply with New York State’s vaccine mandate woke up on Tuesday morning without a job.

Monday, November 22, was the last day employees could submit proof of either a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or a valid medical exemption to continue working unvaccinated.

A spokesperson for Crouse Hospital tells NewsChannel 9 a total of 45 employees have been fired for not complying with the vaccine mandate.

If those employees at Crouse choose to get the vaccine, they’ll get their job back. The hospital is utilizing agency traveling nurses to fill any gaps.

81 employees, including 39 nurses, at Upstate University Hospital have either been suspended without pay or terminated depending on employment status for not being in compliance with the NYSDOH’s vaccine mandate.

Any reduction of clinical staff and their supporting staff increases the chances we will have to further reduce staffed beds. We will monitor closely to optimize operations to safely care for the patients we serve.  We continue efforts to recruit and retain staff, which includes seeking ability to competitively compensate and improve quality of work environment.

Upstate Medical University: Statement

At Oswego Health, a total of 21 employees chose not to meet the requirements of the NYSDOH vaccine mandate.

A spokesperson for Oswego Health said they are actively recruiting and trying to retain the workforce. It’s possible hours of operation at several sites will be changed but there is no plan to close any services in the community.

At St. Joseph’s Health in Syracuse, 67 workers, including full and part time employees, have been suspended without pay after losing their religious exemptions.

Those who submitted proof of their first dose and have not received their second dose of a two-shot vaccination by December 15 will also be suspended without pay. Failure to comply by January 8 will result in termination.

President and CEO of St. Joseph’s Health, Leslie Paul Luke, said operating rooms have been consolidated to use staff more efficiently.

“Each week, we review scheduled elective procedures and adjust our capacity based on staffing availability. Despite staffing challenges, we are continuing to care for the community and we are not turning any patients away,” Luke said.

St. Joe’s employees who change their mind and get the vaccine within a year will be welcomed back and retain their tenure.

More than 98% of employees at Loretto have chosen to get vaccinated. Out of the 2,400 total employees, only 15 have been fired for not complying with the state’s vaccine mandate.

Chief Marketing and Engagement Officer, Julie Sheedy, said Loretto has a 14-day grace period for any employee that changes their mind and gets the shot. They will return to their same role with no impact to their tenure.

Sheedy told NewsChannel 9 staffing plans are in place and Loretto does not expect any impact to services.

“We are so proud of all our Loretto employees who made this commitment to themselves, their families, our residents and their fellow staff to be safe,” Sheedy said.

17 employees at Oneida Health have either left or been fired directly related to the state’s vaccine mandate.

3 workers have been moved to remote positions and the status of 2 other employees is TBD.

This is a developing story, check back here for any updates.

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