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New York State vaccine mandate for hospitals may hamper healthcare access for some Pennsylvanians

A Bradford Regional Medical Center sign that directs visitors to different departments
Emily Reddy
Olean General Hospital in New York, a sister facility to Bradford Regional Medical Center in Pennsylvania, could lose about 200 staff soon for noncompliance with New York's vaccine mandate for hospitals.

The State of New York gives hospital and nursing home employees until Sept. 27 to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face termination. That could impact access to healthcare for some residents in the City of Bradford and McKean County, served by nearby Olean General Hospital in Southern New York.

More than two-thirds of the 840 employees at Olean General, a sister facility to Bradford Regional Medical Center, are vaccinated, the hospital said. But more than 200 staff who come from nearly every department, including nursing, have not met the requirement, according to a statement.

The potential to lose unvaccinated staff under the mandate is “enough to push the hospital into a disaster status,” said Upper Allegheny Health System, which operates both hospitals.

“This is a perfect storm for hospitals,” the health system said. “We are battling a new wave of COVID with staffing challenges, fighting to recruit and retain nurses and support staff.”

The hospital said it’s appealing to unvaccinated employees to get the shot while preparing emergency plans, including putting staff on shifts and limiting or shutting down some services.

Olean General and Bradford Regional Medical Center merged in 2018. Staffing shortages and revenue loss resulted in the consolidation of services, like surgeries, to Olean in May.

Bradford resident Marty Wilder said staffing cuts to Olean General “would reverberate through both hospitals, for sure.”

Eleven Olean General employees have resigned because of the mandate. A spokesperson for the health system said it wants New York to allow frequent testing of unvaccinated staff to avoid what it calls “a statewide catastrophe in healthcare.”

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