Will area hospitals see staffing crisis over vaccine mandate?

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 5:40 PM EDT
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LOWVILLE, New York (WWNY) - The state mandate for health care workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 goes into effect in two weeks. Will any of them see a staffing crisis? We looked into it.

More than 30 staff members have resigned from Lewis County Health System since the state-mandated vaccines for health care workers last month. It had some people giving their two weeks notice Monday.

“So, this morning, we received a handful,” said Jerry Cayer, CEO, Lewis County Health System.

The state deadline to vaccinate health care workers is September 27. Jerry Cayer says the unvaccinated staff at Lewis County Health System has almost been split since the mandate was announced.

“Thirty-nine individuals are now vaccinated. Unfortunately, we’ve had 36 resignations,” said Cayer.

He says 76 percent of the staff has gotten the shot, leaving 151 people unvaccinated. The hospital has already put its maternity unit on pause beginning September 25 due to too many resignations. He says they’re keeping a close eye on a few other departments too.

“We have five other areas that I would say are on our watch list and we’re developing contingency plans,” said Cayer.

Cayer says the unvaccinated crowd has to let management know by the end of Monday what they plan on doing. He’s expecting more clarity in the next 24-48 hours.

Officials with Carthage Area Hospital say they’re expected to reach a 90 percent vaccination rate among staff members and don’t feel that staffing will be an issue after the September 27 deadline.

“Carthage Area Hospital and all of our affiliated clinics have no intention of pausing or discontinuing any service lines,” said Taylour Scanlin, marketing director.

She says nearly 100 employees have gotten the vaccine since the state mandate came out last month. She says they are developing contingency plans too just in case, but that’s not expected to be a problem.

A spokesperson from Samaritan Medical Center says 82 percent of its staff is vaccinated. SMC is expected to release an updated number in the middle of the week.

Cayer says Lewis County Health System is taking steps in the meantime to re-staff its maternity unit with other professionals to limit the time it’ll be on pause.

We reached out to St. Lawrence Health System, which operates Canton-Potsdam, Gouverneur, and Massena hospitals, to see what effect the mandates might have. We didn’t hear back.

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