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Some area hospitals postponing decision on firing unvaccinated workers

ECMC and Catholic Health are planning 30-day suspensions without pay, hoping workers may decide to get COVID vaccinations.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — At least some area hospitals are trying to avoid firing unvaccinated health care workers, as the Monday deadline rolls closer.

Gov. Kathy Hochul has ordered only vaccinated workers will be permitted to work in hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities. The order provides for the firing of those who have not received a COVID vaccine by Monday, October 27.

Earlier this week, Erie County Medical Center announced it could lose some 400 unvaccinated workers and, because of the anticipated manpower shortage, announced it would not accept ICU transfers from other hospitals.

But initially, it will not terminate its workers who have not yet gotten a COVID vaccine shot.

“For the ECMC employees, non-physicians, they have worked out a 30-day period of time without pay in order to give those people time to think about whether or not they want to get the vaccination,” said Dr. Samuel Cloud, associate medical director at ECMC.

If hospital staff is still not vaccinated after that 30-day period, then they will be fired. Unvaccinated physicians will be granted a 60-day suspension. Dr. Cloud says that longer grace period is due to contract language between the hospital and physician groups.

Catholic Health also pans 30-day suspensions for its unvaccinated workers. But because of legal challenges still unresolved in federal and state courts, it will honor applications for a religious exemption, provided it’s in before 9 p.m. Sunday night.

The largest hospital system in the region, Kaleida, is giving its unvaccinated three choices: get vaccinated by 7 a.m. Monday, apply for a religious exemption by 5 p.m. Sunday, or face termination.

Similarly, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center plans immediate dismissal of unvaccinated healthcare workers come Monday. Vice President of Human Resources Alexander Collichio says because of aggressive recruiting and hiring, it expects no reduction of service due to the Governor’s mandate.

Below is the New York State health department data (as of 9/21) of the vaccination rate of Western New York hospitals

HOSPITAL, COUNTY, RATE

  • Oishei Children's, Erie, 100%
  • UPMC Chautauqua, Chautauqua, 97%
  • Medina Memorial, Orleans, 89%
  • ECMC, Erie, 88%
  • Brooks-Tic, Chautauqua, 86%
  • St. Joseph’s, Erie, 85%
  • NFMMC, Niagara, 85%
  • Bertrand Chafee, Erie, 83%
  • Kenmore Mercy, Erie, 82%
  • Wyoming County Community, Wyoming, 82%
  • United Memorial-Bank Street, Genesee, 81%
  • Cuba Memorial, Allegany, 80%
  • Eastern Niagara, Niagara, 79%
  • Westfield Memorial, Chautauqua, 79%
  • Sisters of Charity, Erie, 77%
  • United Memorial-North Street, Genesee, 77%
  • Buffalo General, Erie, 76%
  • Jones Memorial, Allegany, 75%
  • Mount St. Mary’s, Niagara, 75%
  • Olean General, Cattaraugus, 75%
  • South Buffalo Mercy, Erie, 73%
  • Millard Fillmore, Erie, 71%
  • Degraff Memorial, Niagara, 70%
  • Mercy–Orchard Park, Erie, 56%

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