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NYS COVID-19 vaccine mandate leads to 11 resignations at Olean General Hospital

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Posted at 12:24 PM, Sep 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-14 18:21:54-04

OLEAN, N.Y. (WKBW) — 11 employees at Olean General Hospital have resigned over the state's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers, according to a Kaleida Health spokesperson.

The state announced in August that healthcare workers at hospitals and long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, adult care and other congregate care settings, will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by September 27.

But, that mandate has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge on Tuesday.

A Kaleida Health spokesperson released the following statement Tuesday:

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 13 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
- Kaleida Health

Unvaccinated ICU nurse at Olean General Hospital, Trisha Sebastian, said she is scared for her job.

"I am scared for my job. I'm a single mother with four children, and I paid to go to school to be a nurse," Sebastian said. "I’m going to continue to travel and find facilities that are accepting of unvaccinated nurses and try to make myself through the next couple of months.”

10 New York counties, including Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming, have called on the New York State Department of Health and Governor Kathy Hochul to modify the mandate prior to September 27.

The New York State Health Facilities Association sent a letter to the New York State Department of Health and Governor Kathy Hochul also calling for a modification of the mandate.