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Vaccine mandate impacts labor and delivery nurses

Pictured is Dr. Robert Daniels of Lane Women’s Health Group in Jamestown.

Dr. Robert Daniels of Lane Women’s Health Group has practiced in Jamestown for 41 years. He said he has never seen a situation like this before.

Daniels and other providers at Lane Women’s Health Group in Jamestown provide OB-GYN care to the community, including at the labor and delivery department at UPMC Chautauqua with hospital staff. He said the New York state mandate requiring health care workers be vaccinated is impacting staffing at hospitals.

“Unfortunately, we are short of nurses, as is the rest of the country,” he said. “I think out of 32 nurses, seven resigned because of this mandatory COVID stuff. I think they’re trying to get two or three of them back in, but the nursing shortages are being felt throughout the whole hospital and actually, through the whole state.”

“This is totally unique,” he added. “We’ve never seen anything like this with mandates or public health stuff.”

Lane Women’s offers pre-pregnancy counseling, pregnancy care, well-women visits, evaluation and treatment of common gynecological problems, treatment of endometriosis, birth control options, surgical services at UPMC and ultrasound services on site. While the doctors at Lane’s go to UPMC Chautauqua to deliver babies, the nursing staff are UPMC Chautauqua employees.

Daniels said many nurses at the hospital are currently working overtime, which is valuable, but there’s only so long the nurses can keep doing that.

“Hopefully this thing is straightened out soon because they can only do that for a limited amount of time before they burn out,” he said. “The interesting thing is nobody is arguing about the validity or the safety of the vaccine — it’s much more a thing about the right to control one’s own body. I think medically speaking, the vaccination is safe and safe for pregnant women and lactating women — it gives your babies antibodies. But, I think the other issue is, I don’t think women want to be told what to do and be forced to do something with their body that they really might not want to do.”

Daniels said there has been “no curtailment of forces or activities in labor and delivery.” However, he said people may start quitting or burn out depending on how long the issues last.

“The problem is nurses are in great demand throughout the entire state, so they’re really trying to recruit obstetric nurses and nurses of all sorts, but there’s just no one around to really fill in these gaps that we have,” he said, adding that they will not be easier to replace. “We have separate nurses, very specialized nurses who work on the second-year resident level. They’re really good and they really know their OB-GYN. You can’t bring somebody in from the National Guard or you can’t bring some visiting nurses in to take over because it’s not a regular nursing job — it’s a very specialized job with very special skills. We’re in a precarious position; hopefully, all these people will hold on until all this stuff is straightened out. Without good nursing, you cannot have good care.”

In a statement, the hospital said, “UPMC Chautauqua continues to provide safe and high quality care with a full complement of staff for each shift on our labor and delivery unit.”

While the nursing shortage is impacting hospitals across the country, Daniels said Lane Women’s is functioning as normal. However, he said the number of deliveries they perform will increase as Brooks-TLC Hospital System in Dunkirk limited its labor and delivery department.

“Usually that’s good, but when you’re running on a lean nursing service to begin with that may be a little bit overwhelming,” he said.

Last week, the north county hospital said a contingency plan was developed in consultation with the New York State Department of Health and in coordination with Brooks-TLC’s providers and regional partners that support its obstetrics and gynecological services. It lost a portion of its staff due to the mandate on vaccines for health-care workers.

Daniels said he doesn’t see the situation getting better in the near future. He said in his opinion, the political nature of the issue is detrimental and has added to control issues by the government and bureaucracy.

“I think that’s why a lot of people are not willing to be vaccinated because they feel it’s a control thing and it has very little to do with medicine and much more to do with controlling their lives and their bodies,” he said.

Daniels believes the vaccine is safe and would advise those who have not had the virus to get the vaccine.

“I think everyone should be vaccinated — or adults, anyway,” he said. “When you look at the adult population, people over 18, I would recommend that everybody get vaccinated. The only problem we have is that people who have had the disease already have the antibody — they have a higher antibody level than a vaccinated patient. If you give a vaccination to a patient who has already got a large amount of antibodies then those antibodies may attack that vaccination rather vigorously and those people, I think, can get really not well after the vaccination. The problem is we don’t check for antibodies. We just vaccinate people.”

Daniels said a “well-informed patient is the best thing in the world.” He added that people should go over the data themselves and make informed decisions based on the data and their experiences.

“That is what I think should be done, but that is not what is being done with these mandates,” he said. “The decision has been made by Big Brother and that’s all there is to it, no matter what your circumstances. Yes, there are exclusions, but they’re very rigorous. No matter what your personal circumstances might be, you’ve still got to get vaccinated, no matter what. It’s just an across-the-board blanket statement. This is the first time in medicine I’ve seen such a blanket statement.”

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