At least 33 North Country health care workers who have failed to get a COVID vaccine lost their jobs Tuesday, September 28, a day after the statewide mandate went into effect in New York, said officials with UVM Health Network.
The terminations at three hospitals include 12 employees from Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh, 16 at Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone and five at Elizabethtown Community Hospital.
“I will say losing a single individual, today, in any role in any department has a significant impact to our organization as we are already workforce challenged,” said CVPH Chief Nursing Officer Carrie Howard Canning.
The hospitals say that nearly 100 employees qualify for religious or medical exemptions. One nurse who has her shots doesn’t agree with the mandate. For privacy concerns, she asked to remain anonymous.
“There’s such a shortage of us already, that getting rid of the ones that don’t want to have the vaccine — we’re going to really bad levels,” she said.
Canning said she was worried the mandate would shut down some departments. But she said they managed to fill the gaps. “We are continuing to actively recruit and onboard traveling staff and key areas so that includes the nursing laboratory respiratory therapy and other areas,” she said.
She said the hospital continues to see more COVID-19 patients, putting departments at or near capacity. The same is true at Alice Hyde Medical Center, said Tammy Reynolds, the hospital’s associate vice president.
“We’ve deployed staff to our impacted areas,” Reynolds said. “In fact, at our site last week, we had to close our Intermediate Care Unit and relocate staffing to our [emergency department].”
Reynolds says she doesn’t know why some of her colleagues won’t get vaccinated. But she said she continues to encourage staff to get the shots.
“I’m basically a nurse, a scientist and I follow the science so I got vaccinated,” she said.
Canning supports the state’s vaccine mandate and says the staff members let go can get their jobs back once they are innoculated.
“Vaccination is a tool that’s helping us as a community move forward,” she said. “And I do believe it’s the right thing to do.”
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