A hospital in northern New York will stop delivering babies later this month because too many maternity workers resigned rather than get a mandated COVID-19 vaccine.
Lewis County Health System CEO Gerald Cayer announced at a news conference Friday that the maternity department would shut down Sept. 25 until enough new vaccinated employees can be hired to safely reopen.
Seven of 30 employees who resigned from the hospital rather than get a COVID vaccine worked in the maternity department, according to Cayer. Twenty-one of them worked in clinical positions, including nurses, therapists and technicians.
“We are unable to safely staff the service after Sept. 24. The number of resignations received leaves us no choice but to pause delivering babies at Lewis County General Hospital,” said Cayer. “It is my hope that the Department of Health will work with us in pausing the service rather than closing the maternity department.”
Services in five other departments may also be curtailed if more staff members decide to leave rather than be vaccinated for COVID-19.
“Essential health services are not at risk because of the mandate,” Cayer said. “The mandate ensures we will have a healthy workforce and we are not responsible for [causing COVID-19] transmission in or out of our facilities.”
The deadline for all healthcare workers in the state to be vaccinated is Sept. 27. Some 165 of the approximately 650 hospital employees remained unvaccinated as of Friday, and have yet to declare what they plan to do, said Cayer.
Thirty formerly unvaccinated healthcare workers at the hospital have now had at least one shot.
The health system previously had one of the lowest vaccination rates across the state but is now “better than average,” Cayer said, with 464 members of the staff — 73% — at least partially vaccinated.
Cayer said when he’s asked asked if he supports mandatory vaccines for health care workers, his answer is “unequivocally, yes.”
He added: “We as employees have an obligation not to put those that we care for or our coworkers at risk.”
Lewis County had the highest rate in the entire state of COVID-19 positivity over three days as of Friday, Cayer said.
Cayer’s entire press conference can be viewed up top.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.