A week before the vaccine mandate, healthcare workers contemplate their future

[anvplayer video=”5057907″ station=”998131″]

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Healthcare workers have exactly one week to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, or risk losing their jobs. For weeks now thousands of them have been rallying outside Strong Memorial Hospital in opposition to the mandate.

News10NBC’s Patrick Moussignac heard from some of them as they contemplate their financial security. One nurse simply said, the point of this movement is not against the vaccine, but the freedom of choice.

Sarah Sampson, and her husband have been working as Physician Assistants at Highland Hospital for several years. Next week they both may be out of a job, and the source of income their family depends on. Like many others, right now they’re concerned about how this will hurt them financially.

"As hard as it is where we’ve had a lot of sleepless nights. A lot of tears, but again we’re trusting that God is gonna sustain us, because we’re standing up for what we feel is right, and that’s again the freedom to choose," said Sampson.

That’s how many of the healthcare workers at these weekly rallies feel. Highland Hospital Nurse Ashley Russo says she works on the COVID Floor at Highland and says up to 16 nurses are ready to leave, including her. She admits that things are a bit uncertain.

"Right now we’re still kind of in the dark as to like what has to happen. Do we show up? Do we not show up? We still don’t know. We’re still waiting to hear," said Russo.

Some of these employees may be waiting to hear if they’ll get a reprieve in the form of a religious exemption, that will allow them to keep working. Strong Memorial Hospital Nurse Joe Spatol says the mandate is nothing more than a slap in the face.

"Many if not most employees here had the shot in January, or February, and now case after case, after case of breakthrough infections. They’re required to do nothing, and I had Covid in May, and I have to get a shot. This has nothing to do with love. Nothing. I have 6 kids and a stay at home wife, and they’re ready to fire me," said Spatol.

As healthcare workers from hospital systems all across the city continue their weekly rallies, several first-timers are joining them in taking a stance against the vaccine mandate. Neil Weidman is a New York State Corrections Officer, but his wife works at Rochester Regional Health.

"It’s been a great experience. I’ve realized there’s a lot of like-minded people as myself. I’m here for a common cause," said Weidman.

A court hearing on the COVID-19 vaccine religious exemption lawsuit is scheduled for Sept. 28.