A hospital located just north of Syracuse, New York, says it will be forced to "pause" maternity services because several staff members have resigned rather than comply with a state mandate that requires them to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Gerald R. Cayer, the Lewis County Health System CEO, said at a press conference Friday that the company will be "unable to safely staff" the maternity ward at Lewis County General Hospital in Lowville beginning Sept. 24.
In August, then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all health care workers in the state to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Cayer said Friday that since Cuomo's announcement, 30 hospital system employees have resigned.
Of those who have resigned, 21 of them worked in clinical areas, including six members of the maternity ward. In addition, 165 employees with the company have not gotten their first shot and have not informed the company of their plans moving forward.
"We have two weeks remaining for 165 staff to receive the first dose of the vaccine. And at the same time, we must develop contingency plans for services we believe are at risk," Cayer said. "We can't wait to the last minute. We have not been given much time, and it is a hard deadline before us."
Overall, Cayer says the health system's vaccination rate sits at 73%.
Cayer said that moving forward, the health system hopes to recruit nurses who are vaccinated soon to be able to "reengage in delivering babies here in Lewis County."
"Our hope is as we get closer, the numbers will increase of individuals who are vaccinated, fewer individuals will leave, and maybe with a little luck, some of those who have resigned will reconsider," Cayer said.
Lewis County Health System's struggles come as President Joe Biden hopes to institute widespread vaccine mandates, including for health care workers. Biden says he will take action to require vaccinations for workers in most health care settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement.
And while Lewis County Health System is struggling to find workers to comply with the order, mandates appear to be working for other companies. Delta Airlines reported last week that many of its employees had gotten vaccinated after the company said those who did not get their shots would be charged an additional $200 a month in health care costs.
An AP-NORC poll conducted in August found that 55% of Americans are in favor of requiring government workers to be fully vaccinated, compared with 21% opposed.