hospital in upstate New York announced on Friday it will suspend delivering babies later this month citing a shortage of maternity workers.
A number of nurses at Lewis County Health System in Lowville, a village in the Black River Valley, have resigned in protest over COVID vaccination mandates, hospital officials said, including six employees in the maternity unit.
Vaccination in New York will be mandatory for hospital and long-term care workers in New York as of September 27 following an August order signed by disgraced ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Hospital administrators said they will be putting baby deliveries on hold on September 24 but hope to resume in the future once its staffing situation is resolved.
“If we can pause the service and now focus on recruiting nurses who are vaccinated, we will be able to reengage in delivering babies here in Lewis County,” said Lewis County Health System CEO Gerald Cayer in a Friday press conference.
More resignations may follow before then, however. Hospital officials said seven employees have yet to resign but indicated they’re undecided as to whether they’ll take the shot before the September 27 deadline.
1 in 8 Nurses Don’t Want the Vaccine?
The Lewis County Health System is not the only hospital struggling with a shortage of medical staff.
The Wall Street Journal on Sunday highlighted a nationwide shortage of nurses, while the New York Times recently reported on “war zone” like conditions in hospitals because of a shortage of health care workers.
“Nursing shortages have long vexed hospitals,” the Times reported last month. “But in the year and a half since its ferocious debut in the United States, the coronavirus pandemic has stretched the nation’s nurses as never before, testing their skills and stamina as desperately ill patients with a poorly understood malady flooded emergency rooms.”
These shortages may soon get much worse, however.
As Bloomberg News recently reported, nearly 1 in 8 nurses say they have no plans to get vaccinated. That was last month, however—before the Biden Administration announced an order to coerce an estimated 100 million workers to vaccinate.
‘Sure, if You Want!”
Many may see the reluctance of nurses to get vaccinated as “selfish” or wrong, but hospital administrators interviewed by Bloomberg hinted there may be something more at play.
“The overwhelming number of our nurses are female and young and in childbearing years,” Alan Levine, chief executive officer of Ballad Health, which has 21 hospital centers serving patients in Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
Levine may be onto something.
Government data show pregnant women have one of the lowest vaccination rates of any group. Despite an abundance of medical research that shows vaccines do not appear to increase the risk of miscarriage, clearly many women who are conceiving or trying to get pregnant have some reservations about getting the shot—even pro-vax women.
“I had been all-in on getting the vaccine; getting it while pregnant was a different story,” Charlotte Alter explained in a recent Time magazine article.
Alter ended up getting the vaccine, but her explanation on how she arrived at that decision is important.
At the time, the CDC had not yet issued a full-throated recommendation that pregnant women should get the vaccine: pregnant women were eligible, and the research suggested it was safe and effective, but the agency was essentially saying “it’s up to you,” urging women to talk to their health care providers about it. And my doctor wasn’t exactly pushing me one way or the other: her exact words when I asked her advice in April were “sure, if you want!”
Those last words—”if you want!”—are important.
Alter was given a non-coercive choice. The nurses in New York are facing a much different choice: get the shot or get a new job.
Strong Arming People to Get Vaxxed
Few of us can relate to Ms. Alter or the many women trying to conceive who must decide whether they should get vaccinated. These are difficult decisions and deeply personal ones. This is precisely why vaccination must be a choice—for everyone, not just pregnant women.
Unfortunately, the Biden Administration is offering millions of Americans a different choice: comply with our vaccination order or lose your job.
President Biden no doubt believes his order, which requires companies with more than one hundred employees to compel workers to get vaccinated or be tested regularly or face steep fines, will achieve his goal: a higher vaccination rate. But the situation at the Lewis County Health System suggests the order may cause more problems than the White House realizes, particularly in health care systems already at their breaking point.
Choosing to get vaccinated or lose your job isn’t a great choice—but it’s still a choice. And I recently noted that 150 healthcare workers at a single hospital in Houston, a city suffering from a massive shortage of health care nurses, decided to get fired rather than be coerced into vaccination.
In economics, this is what we call a Cobra Problem—an adverse consequence of an action that usually isn’t anticipated.
“Unintended consequences arise every time an authority imposes its will on people,” economist Antony Davies and political scientist James Harrigan have observed. “Seat belt and airbag laws make it less safe to be a pedestrian or cyclist by making it safer for drivers to be less cautious. Payday lending laws, intended to protect low-income borrowers from high lending rates, make it more expensive for low-income borrowers to borrow by forcing them into even more expensive alternatives.”
It stands to reason that a nationwide vaccine mandate could exacerbate the dangerously low staffing situation in many hospitals, which would have lethal consequences.
“When hospitals are understaffed, people die,” Joyce Griffin-Sobe and James Frauenthal of the Helene Fuld College of Nursing observed in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday.
This was precisely why Levine, the CEO of Ballad Health, declined to pass a vaccine mandate for health care workers in his hospitals. Models showed as much as 15 percent of nurses, some 900 health care workers, might leave if he passed one. So he opted for a different approach.
“What we’ve decided to do, besides jumping right into a mandate, is try to educate staff who are women,” Levine told Bloomberg.
In other words, Levine opted for convincing over coercion. It was a wise decision, especially in light of research that shows natural immunity offers more protection than vaccines and COVID-19 positive individuals can still contract and transmit the virus to others, much like unvaccinated individuals.
Alas, Levine’s decision, at least for now, appears to be largely moot. The federal government is much better at coercion than convincing and operates under different incentives (often perverse ones).
Whether Lewis County Health System is an outlier or the proverbial canary in the coal mine remains to be seen.
But with some surveys showing nearly 1 in 3 nurses say they’d quit over a vaccine mandate, we may very well soon see the unfortunate consequences of government officials arrogantly deciding they know best what individuals should do with their own bodies.
Convince, don’t Coerce.
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) September 13, 2021
I support Minnesota nurses and this message. pic.twitter.com/RbrXRGWclZ
— Jon Miltimore (@miltimore79) September 13, 2021