11 employees resign from New York hospital over state vaccine mandate

Eleven Olean (N.Y.) General Hospital workers have resigned because of the state's mandate requiring COVID-19 vaccination for healthcare workers, the hospital confirmed to Becker's.

Olean General, a member of Kaleida Health and part of the Upper Allegheny Health System, has 840 employees. It is subject to New York state's vaccine mandate, which requires healthcare workers at hospitals and nursing homes to receive their first vaccine dose by Sept. 27. Workers at additional entities covered by the mandate, including diagnostic and treatment centers, home health agencies, long-term home healthcare programs, school-based clinics, and hospice care programs, must have at least one dose by Oct. 7. 

"To be clear, Upper Allegheny Health System supports vaccination for all employees. We believe having a 100 percent vaccinated workforce is one of the best measures we can take to protect our patients, employees and the community," the hospital said in a statement. "While the majority of OGH's 840 employees are on record as being vaccinated (68 percent), 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."

Olean General said its administration is analyzing the jobs and locations of unvaccinated employees to see the effect their departure would have on specific hospital services. 

"An emergency plan will be implemented accordingly and likely include, shift of employees and the limitation or the shutdown of some services," the hospital said.

Olean General is not the only healthcare organization in the state grappling with an exodus of workers. Lewis County Health System, a single-hospital system in Lowville, N.Y., for instance, announced it will temporarily close its maternity unit after staff resigned over the state mandate.

"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," said Olean General.

Olean General is advocating for a testing opt-out system for unvaccinated employees to avoid a potential mass exodus of critically needed healthcare workers.

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