Albany Med puts 204 on unpaid leave

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Albany Medical Center held a press conference Tuesday to address concerns over staffing shortages in the wake of the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.

As of Tuesday, 204 of its unvaccinated employees will be put on a seven day leave without pay. If they decide not to get their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine during that week, they will be terminated. 

Dennis McKenna, M.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Albany Med, said there’s no doubt there is a staffing crisis and the NYS vaccine mandate has only added to the already existing problem.

Albany Med announced its own vaccine mandate on August 4, two weeks before the state’s mandate was announced by former Governor Andrew Cuomo. 

“Health care workers are the heart of our community. Albany Med is the regions largest employer,” McKenna said. “So, the health of our workforce is very much connected to the health of our region and our community.”

McKenna added that Albany Med’s position is unique because they are the only Level I Trauma Center within 25 counties, and the area’s only children’s hospital. 

“We care for the most vulnerable. That is why we endorsed the vaccinate mandate,” McKenna said.

As a result of the state’s mandate, 204 of Albany Med’s 11,456 total employees will be put on unpaid leave for seven days. During that week, they will have the opportunity to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. If not, they will be terminated.

But how do the 204 employees break down? Forty eight are nurses, 29 are patient care associates, 10 are physicians, and 6 are students. 

NEWS10’s Stephanie Rivas asked Albany Med what positions the other 111 employees have. An Albany Med representative said, “the remainder represents a cross section throughout the entire institution.”

In addition, there are 42 who have requested a religious or medical exemption. These employees are still on staff, pending approval of their exemptions. McKenna added that all of these numbers are fluid.

Twenty-five nurses also resigned since the state’s mandate was announced. 

“I think nursing staffing is the heart of the hospital,” Lisa Massarweh, Chief Nursing Officer, said. “In my humble opinion, the only reason a patient is admitted to a hospital is for nursing care.”

McKenna said it’s Albany Med’s job to make sure safety isn’t impacted, and it’s causing its leadership to make some difficult decisions.

“Whether or not we have to cut back on elective surgical procedures. Redeploy people from the outpatient and into the inpatient location. We have to balance our needs and our staffing, and that’s the work we are doing everyday.”

It is still unknown what changes Albany Med will have to make to accommodate the new losses from the mandate and the ongoing staffing struggle. However, McKenna said those decisions will continue to be made for months to come.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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