Lewis County hospital won’t deliver babies after unvaccinated staff quit

Local News

LOWVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — An upstate New York hospital will stop delivering babies later this month, in part because of employee resignations over a requirement they be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Six maternity staff members resigned from Lewis County General Hospital during the past week, worsening an existing staff shortage, the Watertown Daily Times reported. The department has seven other unvaccinated employees who also could decide to leave, hospital officials said.

“The number of resignations received leaves us no choice but to pause delivering babies at Lewis County General Hospital,” Chief Executive Gerald Cayer said at a news conference Friday. “It is my hope that the (state) Department of Health will work with us in pausing the service rather than closing the maternity department.”

Services also may have to be curtailed in five other departments if staff members resign rather than be vaccinated by the state’s Sept. 27 deadline for health care workers, authorities said.

About 165 unvaccinated employees, 73% of whom provide clinical services, have yet to declare their intention to stay or go, Cayer said. The county-owned health system employs about 650 people.

Cayer said 30 people have resigned since the vaccine mandate was announced last month, most of whom held clinical positions like nurses, therapists and technicians. Thirty others have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, he said.

“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.”

The health care system’s nursing home has seen one resignation, but 48 people have yet to take action, he said.

The maternity “pause” will begin on Sept. 25.

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