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Mandate ‘challenges’ Brooks-TLC System

Brooks Memorial Hospital

New York’s state COVID-19 vaccine mandate could put the Brooks-TLC Hospital System in Dunkirk in a pinch when it comes to staffing.

On Friday, the hospital indicated a potential 9% loss of its workforce is being anticipated starting on Monday as 51 of the 573 employees have opted to remain unvaccinated.

“We are getting there,” said Mary LaRowe, president and chief executive officer of Brooks-TLC, “but the 9 percent not vaccinated is still 9 percent of our workforce. And, while that number is on par with what other Western New York hospitals face, in a rural healthcare system the size of ours, the loss challenges our operations.”

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in August mandated that all health care workers get their first dose of the vaccine by Sept. 27. All other health care facilities — including diagnostic and treatment centers, home health agencies, long-term home health care programs, school-based clinics and hospice care programs — must have workers vaccinated by Oct. 7.

Current Gov. Kathy Hochul has not backed down on the enforcement despite a federal judge earlier this month temporarily blocking New York from enforcing the mandate after a lawsuit was filed by a group of 17 health professionals who said their Constitutional rights were violated because the mandate disallowed religious exemptions.

According to Ken Morris, Brooks-TLC chief operations officer, the system was already facing a staffing shortage in support departments and the Obstetrics Clinical Unit. With the new wave of COVID, there was no employee the system could afford to lose.

“The plan we have in place is fluid,” Morris said, “and appropriate actions will occur when the full impact becomes known Monday. We are certainly grateful to and appreciative for the staff who are compliant and will remain with us.”

Brooks-TLC remains committed to providing quality and compassionate healthcare in the communities it serves.

Other health-care facilities across Chautauqua County in recent weeks have discussed their concerns about the mandate. WCA Home in Fredonia, which was on the verge of losing one-third of its staff, has seen some have a change of heart. As of earlier this week, the Home said only two employees were not vaccinated.

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