SMC, other hospitals help deliver babies after Lewis County maternity ward closes

Published: Oct. 1, 2021 at 2:50 PM EDT

LOWVILLE, New York (WWNY) - Nearly a week after Lewis County General Hospital was forced to stop delivering babies because too many maternity unit workers resigned over COVID vaccination mandates, other hospitals are stepping up.

Lewis County Health System has partnered with Samaritan Medical Center, Carthage Area Hospital, and Mohawk Valley Health System in Utica to help care for pregnant people.

LCHS announced its partnership with Watertown’s hospital Friday.

“Samaritan Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Thomas Carman and I worked together to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to support moms-to-be that are in the final weeks of their pregnancy,” stated Gerald Cayer, LCHS CEO, in a news release. “This wouldn’t have been possible without physicians from LCHS and SMC working together to support expecting moms and ensure a safe and appropriate transition of care.”

The partnership means pre-natal and post-natal care will be provided by the patient’s obstetrician in Lowville, and the delivery will take place at SMC.

Obstetrical patients who are 32-36 weeks will transition to a physician at Samaritan to prepare for the delivery of their babies.

The other two hospitals also have a similar agreements.

“When it comes to coming to the hospital for delivery and any other emergent care, we’ll take care of them,” said Dr. Walter Dodard, O.C., Carthage Area Hospital OB/GYN director.

He says so far, staff there has had no problem taking in Lewis County maternity patients.

“This is great for our community, having the ability to have different colleagues you can bounce things off of and help,” he said.

The LCHS Women’s Health practice, located on the main hospital campus in Lowville, continues to provide OB/GYN services.

In August, the state announced all health care workers at hospitals and long-term care facilities across New York would be required to have gotten at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination by September 27.

Cayer said 6 employees in the maternity unit resigned rather than get a COVID shot.

He said the hospital was unable to safely staff the unit and paused delivering babies after September 24.

“We are working hard to make this ‘pause’ a temporary situation as we diligently work to recruit additional labor and delivery nurses who are vaccinated, ensuring we can provide the safest and highest level of care for expecting moms and babies,” Cayer said in a news release.

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