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Catholic Health suspends some services in wake of vaccine mandate, expected strike

The entrance to Marcy Hospital's Emergency Department
KC Kratt
Catholic Health System

Thousands of healthcare workers in New York faced with getting the COVID-19 vaccine or losing their jobs on Monday have received at least one dose now.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul released figures Tuesday showing vaccination rates rising among the state's 450,000 hospital workers and for other healthcare workers. By Monday evening, she said 92% of nursing home staff received at least one vaccine dose and preliminary data showed 92% of hospital staff receiving at least one dose of vaccine.

An executive order signed by the governor allows out-of-state doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to practice in New York, makes it easier for retirees to return to the workforce and allows doctor consults in nursing homes via telemedicine. The order broadens the roles of emergency medical technicians, allowing basic EMTs to vaccinate and test for the coronavirus.

The vaccine mandate is making a workforce negotiation at Catholic Health more difficult. The healthcare system is also making plans for service updates at Mercy Hospital, as many of its nurses and other workers represented by CWA Local 1133 is expected to begin Friday.

Effective Wednesday, Catholic Health is suspending inpatient elective surgeries and diverting ambulances from Mercy Hospital and the Mercy Ambulatory Care Center. The Emergency Department will be open for emergencies, walk-ins and situations where the patient is unstable and Mercy is the closest facility available or the patient specifically requests the facility.

On Wednesday, Mercy Hospital, in conjunction with the state Health Department, also suspended labor and delivery services, but Catholic Health will continue these services at Sisters of Charity Hospital’s Main Street Campus in Buffalo and Mt. St. Mary’s Hospital in Lewiston.

The hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) will remain open to care for babies currently in the unit and mothers who have already delivered will continue to receive care for the duration of their hospital stay.

"OB/GYN providers at Mercy Hospital will be contacting their patients to make arrangements for alternate delivery locations, including patients scheduled for inductions and C-sections," said Catholic Health in a statement. "All OB/GYN providers who have privileges to deliver at Mercy Hospital can also deliver at Sisters Hospital, and some providers may have privileges to deliver at Oishei Children’s Hospital. Maternity patients are asked to contact their OB/GYN provider for more information."

Catholic Health said it is continuing to negotiate in good faith with Local 1133 for more than 12 hours a day, but discussions are still millions of dollars apart. While the strike action is only planned at Mercy Hospital, the union also represents workers at Kenmore Mercy Hospital and Sisters of Charity Hospital's St. Joseph Campus.

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