Hospital CEO on vaccine litigation: ‘What do we do to move forward?’

Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 5:15 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - It’s been three weeks since a State Supreme Court judge ruled New York state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers is unconstitutional. Where does it stand now and what does one hospital leader think?

Carthage Area Hospital and Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center didn’t lose too many employees when the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers was put into place.

“If I recollect correctly, it was maybe ten or 12 people that we lost,” said Rich Duvall, chief executive officer of both facilities.

But the implications since the fall of 2021 remain.

“It’s incredibly hard to recruit, and we have had both nurses and physicians who were interested in joining our practices, who were unable to because of the vaccine mandate,” said Duvall.

Three weeks ago, a state Supreme Court judge out of Syracuse ruled the state’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers was “null, void, and of no effect.”

At the time, the state Department of Health said it was “exploring its options” and, at the end of January, filed notice it was appealing “each and every part” of the judge’s decision.

Duvall says even if the vaccine mandate does get overturned, there are still federal requirements and recommendations hospitals have to navigate.

“Even if the state overturns it, it’s going to put hospitals in a very difficult decision as to whether we follow the CDC rules, or what do we do to move forward,” he said.

The Department of Health says the vaccine is a critical public health tool and tells 7 News it “strongly disagrees with the judge’s decision and has filed a notice of appeal and a motion to stay the underlying injunction. As this is ongoing litigation, we will not comment further.”

That motion has been submitted in court and is pending.