OLEAN, N.Y. — New York State's vaccine mandate for healthcare workers in hospitals and nursing homes is already having an impact locally nearly two weeks before the deadline.
Effective September 27, those workers must be vaccinated or face immediately losing their jobs.
In WNY, Olean General Hospital confirms to 2 On Your Side that 11 employees have chosen to resign instead of complying. The hospital would not do an interview, but did release the following statement:
Effective September 27, New York State will mandate that all hospital and nursing home employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face immediate termination of employment. October 7, that same mandate will go into effect for diagnostic and treatment centers across the state. New York will join 12 other states with similar mandates. That number will no doubt increase as we go through the next wave of COVID. The mandate only includes New York facilities and does not include Bradford Regional Medical Center.
The mandate is causing hospitals and nursing homes across New York, particularly rural facilities, grave concerns to the extent they are preparing disaster plans given the large number of employees who play a critical role in care delivery and support and thus far have refused vaccination. Olean General Hospital is no exception. Services could be profoundly impacted.
To be clear, Upper Allegheny Health System supports vaccination for all employees. We believe having a 100% vaccinated workforce is one of the best measures we can take to protect our patients, employees and the community. While the majority of OGH’s 840 employees are on record as being vaccinated (68%), there are still more than 250 employees who have chosen to decline vaccination, enough to push the hospital into a disaster status, should these employees elect to leave the organization as a result of the mandate. These are employees from nearly every department across the organization, including nursing, who have thus far declined vaccination. This situation is playing out not only here in the Southern Tier, but across New York State.
OGH administration is going through an analysis of unvaccinated employees (their jobs and where they work) to see the impact their departure would have on specific services. An emergency plan will be implemented accordingly and likely include, shift of employees and the limitation or the shut down of some services.
As we have stated previously, we are already experiencing challenges and are doing everything possible to recruit and retain employees. However, should the vaccination mandate be implemented as stated, it will be a tipping point, impacting hospital services across New York, including Olean General.
This is a perfect storm for hospitals. We are battling a new wave of COVID with staffing challenges, fighting to recruit and retain nurses and support staff. As a result, we are working closely with our State representatives and the New York State Healthcare Association to make sure our concerns are heard clearly in Albany.
We are grateful to have received support from New York State Senator George Borrello and many other state senators on this issue. The Governor and the NYS Commissioner of Health are aware of both employer and employee concerns over the mandate, including a potential mass exodus of critically needed employees. One of the solutions to this issue could include frequent testing of non-vaccinated employees.
The matter is out of our hands, but it is our hope that somewhere between now and September 27, efforts will be made to avoid a statewide catastrophe in healthcare. Still, we can see the train coming down the tracks and it is getting closer. We are grateful and proud of all those employees who have been vaccinated, but we need to be a 100% vaccinated organization. We are appealing to all our unvaccinated employees to help by getting vaccinated. Our patients and the community needs our employees vaccinated, now more than ever .
This is something hospitals across the state are dealing with.
2 On Your Side asked State Senator Rob Ortt about the vaccine mandate on Tuesday.
"I think the idea that we're going to just say goodbye to tens of thousand of health care workers across the state, I don't know that that's actually better for people who need care if there's less people to provide that care," said State Senator Rob Ortt. "I think there needs to be an alternative as opposed to saying vaccine or you're terminated. I think there can be another way to still keep patients safe, they're testing twice a week, so some testing I think is the alternative answer."
2 On Your Side's Kelly Dudzik will have more on this story on Channel 2 News at 4, 5 and 6 PM.