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New York hospital will stop delivering babies as workers quit over vaccine mandate

Syringes containing a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine ready for administration.
Syringes containing a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine ready for administration.Angel Garcia/Bloomberg

An upstate New York hospital’s maternity unit will stop delivering babies after a spate of resignations following the state’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate for health care workers, the health system’s CEO said last week.

Lewis County Health System CEO Jerry Cayer announced on Friday that the maternity unit at Lewis County General Hospital in Lowville will “pause” delivering babies starting Sept. 25.

“We are unable to safely staff service after September 24. The number of resignations received leaves us no choice but to pause delivering babies in Lewis County General Hospital,” said Cayer in a press conference, which was recorded by local news site LinkingLewisCounty.com.

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New York health officials recently approved a revised emergency regulation requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for health care personnel — without an option to undergo weekly testing instead — and removed a religious exemption option. Regulators kept in place a narrow medical exemption.

According to Cayer, since the vaccine mandate was announced, 30 employees resigned, 21 of whom worked in clinical settings. There remains 165 employees who are unvaccinated and are required to receive their first dose by Sept. 27.

Depending on the decisions of these employees, further services and departments may be impacted in the coming weeks.

Lewis County, located in northwestern New York, has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state, with 56.8 percent of residents age 18 and older receiving at least one vaccine dose, according to state officials.

Despite the resignations, Cayer says he unequivocally supports the vaccine mandate.

“Essential services are at risk not because of the mandate. The mandate ensures we will have a healthy workforce and we are not responsible for transmission in and out of our facility,” said Cayer. “We as employees have an obligation not to put those we care for or our coworkers at risk.”

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Maria Elena Little Endara can be reached at mariaelena.littleendara@globe.com.