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Local hospitals/nursing homes prepare for Governor’s COVID mandates

by WayneTimes.com
September 27, 2021

There is no question that, just as in the general public, there are those in the medical/health professions who are resisting COVID vaccinations.

But unlike the general public, New York State has mandated that health workers be vaccinated, or face dismissal.

On August 26, 2021, the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) issued an emergency regulation requiring certain health care providers to ensure that their employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The regulation requires that covered health care entities require personnel to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with the first vaccine dose to be received by September 27, 2021, for general hospitals and nursing homes, and by October 7, 2021, for all other covered entities. The regulation applies to general hospitals and nursing homes.

While the regulation allows for a medical exemption, the regulation was revised at the last minute to eliminate any religious exemption to the vaccine mandate. Notably, the elimination of the religious exemption makes New York State’s mandate stricter than the recently announced federal health care mandates.

As New York’s vaccine mandate takes effect Monday, 99% of professional medical staff and 91% of all staff are vaccinated at six UR Medicine hospitals, which will maintain critical care with some delays in non-essential services.

“Medical professionals know that vaccination is the most powerful tool we have to keep ourselves, our families and the community safe,” said Michael Apostolakos, M.D., URMC’s chief medical officer. “More people being vaccinated means fewer hospitalizations and fewer deaths.”

Locally, at F.F. Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua, 99% of the medical staff is vaccinated.  That includes employed doctors and advanced practice professionals such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants who are partially or fully vaccinated.

There is also no question that the   Finger Lakes region and Wayne County have had major problems and nationally we already face staffing shortages because of rising demand for clinical services. Some health workers are retiring or choosing other employment after 18 months of COVID stress, and fewer recruits are choosing health care over other career options. These staff shortages, not related to the mandate, have caused UR Medicine Labs to close some patient service centers temporarily. Strong Memorial Hospital will close hospital beds in several units, and Highland Hospital  postpones cancelling a small number of scheduled elective procedures beginning last Monday, Sept. 20.

Nationally six percent of nursing homes and 77 percent of assisted living providers said their workforce situation has gotten worse over the last three months. 58 % of nursing homes are limiting new admissions due to shortages.

Patients can expect longer wait times for routine appointments, some employees will be asked to take on new responsibilities, and temporary bed closures are possible depending on staffing impact in different hospitals and clinical service areas. However, Apostolakos emphasized that emergency services and critical care will continue across the UR Medicine system.

At Newark-Wayne Hospital and Demay Living Center in Newark, as Friday (9/24) afternoon,  100% of the professional staff is vaccinated and 94% of all hospital employees are vaccinated.

According to RGH spokesperson Veronica Chiesi Brown the statistics for the Demay Living Center do not have DeMay’s exact numbers broken out as of Friday.

On the County level, County Administrator Rick House stated that 6 nursing home employees have resigned rather that comply with the State regulations, with at least two more employees are on the edge. “The Wayne County Nursing Home has 253 employees as of Thursday (9/23). There were still 18 unvaccinated employees leaving 92% vaccinated at this point,” added House.

He also recognized that the nursing home has about 70 open staff positions, but some have been posted for years and are not necessarily critical care positions. 

Jeff Stalker, Director of the Wayne County Nursing Home updated the Board of Supervisors at Tuesday’s (9/21) meeting that on COVID  concerns at the Home.

There are currently 5 beds set aside for COVID cases at the Nursing Home. At this time, 1 resident was sent to the hospital and tested positive, and 1 employee was also sent to the hospital was symptoms and tested positive. The employee did not work with the resident population. He added that with the existing staff and mandated overtime, the nursing home will have all bases covered. Occupancy is being held at 90% for the current situations.

Chairman of the Board Ken Miller asked if Public Health had heard of cases where students who have COVID symptoms had been encouraged not to report them, due to that affecting sports or school quarantines. Unfortunately, according to Wayne County Public Health Deputy Director Kerry VanAuken, the Department has heard of this happening.

She noted that the Department has had frank discussions about the safety of children. School age kids are not well tested. 

As for attempting to compete with the private sector on nursing homes, House stated that, locally, the private homes have instituted pay raises up to $15 more per hour. “We can’t do that,” he said emphatically, but he said that the County is willing to reopen signed contracts and discuss pay increases for nursing home positions.

House commented that ‘personal freedoms’ and rumors of ‘effects on mothers’ are the main reasons county employees give for rejecting COVID vaccinations.

Religious Exemptions

The County has had a few protest the state mandates on the health and nursing home vaccinations. The County has a printed an exemption form that requires the religious reasons, whichmust be verified by the religion in writing concerning foreign substances being introduced into the body,  along with verified church membership. There is also an oral questioning of anyone applying. The County Administrator said the County had only three person asking for a religious exemption, but because they could not cite doctrine to verify the foreign substances in the body statement all three were denied.

Mental Health

The Wayne County Mental Health Department is not affected by the state mandates. 

County Building Visitors

Masks are required for any persons entering Wayne County buildings, whether fully vaccinated, or not. Likewise, employees leaving their work area will also be fully masked

Blood Draw Centers

For blood draw stations or what is referred to as patient services centers, please visit: https://www.rochesterregional.org/closings

Effective September 28, due to staffing shortages, some patient service centers will close temporarily and others will be changing hours of operation. Visit www.urmedicinelabs.org and click “Our Lab Locations” on the right for real-time updates.

County COVID statistics

As of Friday (9/24) Wayne County Public Health has administered 11,882 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 11,453 individuals have been fully vaccinated specifically through WCPH Clinics.

Wayne County Public Health can confirm that their total number of positive cases of COVID-19 is now at 6,695. 

The County had 58 new cases since our their report (9/23/21) and 0 previous cases have been transferred to the correct county of residence. 

* 18 out of 58 new cases are among children (31.03%)

* Out of the County’s 6,695 positive cases, they have 6,312 cases resolved/recovered, 324 cases remain active and recovering, and there have been 59 deaths of people related to COVID-19. Currently, we have 16 cases in need of hospitalization. 

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