hospitals no longer accept religious exemptions – Community News

hospitals no longer accept religious exemptions

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Erika Mihalics is a registered nurse at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, who said her job is in jeopardy because of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

“I’ll lose all my pension, I’ll lose any seniority, I’ll lose my pay, I won’t be able to become a nurse in NYS,” Mihalics said.

On October 14, Mihalics received an email saying she had received full approval for religious exemption and can continue to work. The e-mail also remains a condition for approval is weekly testing.

“We all agree to test weekly,” said Mihalics. “We are not against that at all. We want to compromise with everyone and we don’t want to pass that on to our patients.”

After deliberating in court in late October, the US Court of Appeals of the Second Circuit said religious exemptions are no longer appropriate. Roswell then emailed Mihalics stating that she must have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by November 30.

On Nov. 15, all New York state hospitals received a letter stating that those previously granted religious exemptions must now have documentation of a first dose or a valid medical exemption, in accordance with Roswell’s mandate.

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Roswell Park told Mihalics on Monday that she has not yet been fired. She was suspended without pay on Tuesday.

“Okay, we have the vaccine, let’s get vaccinated, but some of us were a little hesitant because it’s all new,” Mihalics said.

“Any person who enters a healthcare facility should never have the fear that they will contract COVID from the person in charge of taking care of their health,” Governor Hochul said.

As of Nov. 24, 95 percent of hospital workers in Erie County were vaccinated, according to the New York State Department of Health. A week ago, Governor Kathy Hochul said she will not be returning to the mandate.

“I can’t change a policy because of some individuals who made that personal decision,” Governor Hochul said.

According to the New York State Department of Health, the effectiveness of vaccines against hospitalizations for adults between 18 and 64 is more than 86 percent.

But Mihalics said she wants concrete answers and evidence from Roswell.

“They tell you not to come to work, but we’re not going to give you a cancellation letter, we’re not going to give you any documentation.”

Roswell said the deadline for vaccinating health professionals is 5 p.m. Monday. They said those who are not will be referred to disciplinary proceedings, up to and including dismissal. Also from today, Roswell now requires proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test for all visitors.

Kaleida Health says it has fired 100 employees who previously had religious exemptions. Their statement reads in part:

“Consistent with New York State’s Vaccine Mandate Guidelines for Healthcare Workers, Kaleida Health today fired 100 employees who had previously received a religious exemption and chose not to receive their initial vaccination dose by the state’s deadline of Sunday, May 5. December 2021. Combined with the previous vaccine mandate deadline in November, about 200 staff members have now been separated from the organization.

Kaleida Health plans to remain open and provide access to services across the organization. We continue to add resources and post jobs so we can stay there for the community.

Given the reduction in headcount, subsequent reduction in staffed beds, the significant increase in the number of COVID-19 hospitals in our facilities, and the spike in COVID-19 cases in our region, Kaleida Health is proactively mandating non-essential elective clinical operations in Buffalo. General Medical Center and Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital.”

Catholic Health says 185 workers have not been vaccinated. Their statement reads in part:
“With the December 4 deadline passed for covered employees to provide evidence of COVID-19 vaccination or facial termination, Catholic Health has entered the final phase of compliance with New York State’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Catholic Health’s Human Resources team has collected the number of employees who have been vaccinated, along with those who have filed valid medical waivers or deferrals, to determine a definitive count of personnel who are not in compliance with the mandate. At present, approximately 185 employees, or less than 2% of the health system’s workforce, are unvaccinated.

Any unvaccinated Catholic Health employee who falls under the vaccine mandate and has not received a medical exemption or deferment will be terminated based on the requirements of the state mandate.”

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