County leaders: State’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers could lead to dire consequences

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Several health officials in the Rochester area say New York state’s current vaccine mandate for all healthcare workers is going to have dire consequences. Nursing homes and hospitals are already seeing staff resign, and the mandate hasn’t even started yet.

News10NBC looks at how officials are taking action through a letter with hopes the state will make modifications.

The letter, signed by the leaders of 10 counties in the Rochester area, asks Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to consider some changes to the mandate to help prevent the walkout of more healthcare employees from local medical facilities.

Leaders of Genesee, Livingston, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, Wyoming, and Yates counties reached out to officials in Albany Thursday.

Ontario County Administrator Chris DeBolt says although each leader is very supportive of the state’s vaccination efforts, they’re afraid the mandate will have a huge operational impact on most of our local healthcare facilities.

"If a nursing home is forced to shutter maybe a third or sixth of their beds because they can’t staff them adequately, then patients in a hospital setting who would normally be discharged to a nursing home can’t be discharged, and they likely can’t go home," DeBolt said.

He says this could overwhelm hospitals. County leaders are hoping that Albany would allow for changes to the mandate, such as testing unvaccinated healthcare workers up to three times per week.

"Whatever it may be to provide that assurance to our patients and our patients’ families that the caregivers in the nursing homes and in the hospitals are COVID free but still respecting those healthcare workers who have indicated they, for whatever personal reasons, do not want to get vaccinated, and feel strongly enough that they’re willing to resign," DeBolt said.

Healthcare workers who oppose getting a COVID019 vaccine may soon lose their jobs. Candy Wood, a certified nursing assistant at Wesley Gardens, is ready to quit her job if the state’s mandate remains in place.

"I’ve even worked with COVID patients, and I still have not gotten it," Wood said. "Why should I put something in my body, I don’t even know what’s in it."

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello explained why the county chose not to join the other counties in the letter.

"Right now, we don’t see a catastrophic outcome of this in terms of having to close patient beds," Bello said. "That’s just not our situation now, but it’s going to be different in different counties."

Nola Goodrich-Kresse with Orleans County Public Health released a statement, echoing other counties, saying in part:

"While we fully support COVID-19 vaccines and urge every eligible New Yorker to get vaccinated as soon as able, there are strong concerns about the practical implications of the proposed mandate on the stability of our healthcare system in our region.

Local nursing homes and hospitals have reported pending mass resignations of staff effective the day before the proposed mandate is set to go into effect, which can exasperate the already significant staffing shortages."

There’s no word yet when Hochul or Zucker will respond to the letter.

Vaccine Mandate for Healthcare Workers by News10NBC on Scribd

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