URMC doesn’t believe COVID-19 vaccine deadline will affect patient services

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — University of Rochester Medical Center told News10NBC the potential loss of a few hundred employees will not affect patient services. Monday’s 11:59 p.m. deadline cancels all religious exemptions for any health care employees who come in contact with any patients.

The clock is ticking for these unvaccinated health care workers. News10NBC spoke with URMC’s Chief Operating Officer Kathy Parrinello, Ph.D. who says there are plenty of resources available to help them operate smoothly.

URMC’s Strong Memorial Hospital employs more than 15,000 health care workers, and the majority of them have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Parrinello said it’s too early to tell how many will resign at the midnight deadline.

"Less than 300 people and less than 200 of those are working full time, and that number could only go down because we continue to vaccinate throughout the day," Parrinello said.

We asked her if there’s any chance that unvaccinated employees would be moved to parts of the hospital that are away from the clinical care area. She said the State Health Department has been pretty clear on this.

"Anyone that interfaces with the patients, or with personnel that takes care of patients cannot be accommodated in our environment," Parrinello said.

The hospital has been getting by thanks to many employees picking up extra shifts. Parrinello says help is on the way.

"Some of our new hires that we’ve hired since the fall are coming off their orientation period so they’ll be able to work independently. So we will be staffing based on all of the resources that are available." Parrinello added, "We’ll have very little impact on the patients that we’re able to serve, and we’re doing everything possible every day."

As far as a religious exemption, very few will qualify beyond midnight.

"These are a limited number of people," said Parrinello. She continued, "Some of them work remotely doing medical record coding or billing. So there will be some accommodation when we’re able to do that."

Parrinello said if an employee chooses to resign, but eventually gets vaccinated in the future they can always reapply and get hired again.

Strong Memorial Hospital and its pharmacy will stay open until midnight to vaccinate any employee that decides to stay. We also reached out to Rochester Regional Health officials for a comment, but haven’t heard back from them yet.