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Hospital to stop delivering babies as maternity workers resign over vaccine mandate

By Brendan Straub and Diane Rutherford

LOWVILLE, New York (WWNY) – Lewis County General Hospital will stop delivering babies after September 24 because too many maternity unit workers have resigned over COVID vaccination mandates.

That’s according to Lewis County Health System Chief Executive Officer Gerald Cayer, who held a news conference Friday in Lowville.

He said 6 employees in the maternity unit resigned rather than get a COVID shot and another 7 are undecided.

According to Cayer, the hospital will be unable to safely staff the unit and will pause delivering babies after September 24.

He said he hopes this is a temporary situation and will work with the state Department of Health to make sure the unit won’t permanently close.

“If we can pause the service and now focus on recruiting nurses who are vaccinated, we will be able to reengage in delivering babies here in Lewis County,” said Cayer.

Cayer said 165 hospital employees have yet to be vaccinated against COVID-19; that’s 27 percent of the workforce.

The other 464 workers, or 73 percent of employees, have gotten their shots, he said.

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 the announcement prompted 30 workers to get vaccinated, while another 30 resigned.

“Our hope is as we get closer (to the deadline), 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,” he said. “We are not alone. There are thousands of positions that are open north of the Thruway and now we have a challenge to work through, you know, with the vaccination mandate.”

He added that Lewis County, as a whole, has the state’s highest 7-day average percentage of positive COVID test results reported over the last 3 days.

Copyright 2021 WWNY. All rights reserved.

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