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Local health care systems provide update on compliance with NYS COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Kaleida Health terminated 100 employees who were previously granted religious exemption
Hospital puts nurse on leave for posting TikTok where she bragged about flouting COVID-19 protocols
Posted at 10:27 PM, Dec 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-06 22:27:32-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Local health care systems have provided an update on compliance with the New York State COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers.

In August, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all health care workers in the state.

In early October, a federal judge ruled the state had to allow health care workers to seek exemptions as a lawsuit challenging the requirement proceeded in court.

In late October, a federal appeals panel upheld the state's vaccine mandate for health care workers and reversed the federal judge's decision.

In November, the New York State Department of Health sent a letter to health care providers across the state that said beginning November 22, those who were previously granted religious exemptions were required to have documentation of a first dose COVID-19 vaccination or a valid medical exemption.

Monday evening, Catholic Health and Kaleida Health provided updates on compliance with the mandate.

Catholic Health said about 185 associates, or less than 2% of the workforce, remain unvaccinated.

"Any unvaccinated Catholic Health associate covered under the vaccine mandate who has not received a medical exemption or deferral, is being terminated based on the requirements of the state mandate," a release says.

We implemented an aggressive education campaign, including having our infectious disease specialists and other vaccine advocates go unit-to-unit and department-to-department to address any questions or concerns our staff had about the COVID-19 vaccine. Dozens of individuals were vaccinated in the last week alone, and we are grateful to all those who stepped up to protect themselves and our patients and long-term care residents.
- William Pryor, Catholic Health Executive Vice President & Chief Administrative Officer

Kaleida Health said it terminated 100 employees Monday who were previously granted a religious exemption and chose not to receive an initial vaccination dose by the NYS deadline of December 5. Combined with the November deadline, Kaleida Health said it has terminated around 200 employees in total due to the mandate.

"Kaleida Health intends to remain open and provide access to services across the organization. We continue to add resources and post positions so that we can continue to be there for the community," a release says.

Due to the reduction in workforce which led to a reduction of staffed beds, and a rise in COVID-19 cases, Kaleida Health is postponing non-essential elective inpatient surgeries at Buffalo General Medical Center and Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital.

We continue to consult with our physician leadership as well as surgical leadership teams to manage the number of elective inpatient surgeries on a daily basis that require an overnight stay. This will ensure that, as a health system, we are appropriately managing patient care and community need amid this current surge in COVID-19 cases.
- Dr. Michael Mineo, chief medical officer for Buffalo General Medical Center and Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital

7 Eyewitness News reached out to ECMC for comment on compliance with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, we have not heard back. In September, ECMC announced it placed approximately 7% of its total workforce on unpaid leave as a result of the vaccine mandate.