Lewis County Health System CEO Gerald Cayer made a startling announcement on Tuesday.

"The number of resignations received leaves us no choice but to pause delivering babies at Lewis County General Hospital," Cayer said.

The hospital now counts nearly 40 people who have decided they would rather quit their jobs than get the COVID-19 vaccine mandated for health care workers. A handful of those come from the Lewis County General Hospital's Maternity Unit.

It's a difficult situation, but one Cayer says, is what it is.

What You Need To Know

  • Lewis County General Hospital says so many employees have resigned rather than get a COVID vaccine, it must now temporarily stop delivering babies

  • Nearly 40 employees have resigned since the COVID vaccine became mandatory for Health Care Workers

  • The hospital hopes those who plan to quit will reconsider, but it will begin searching for vaccinated nurses

"We live in a place, a country where you get to choose certain things, and if you choose not to be vaccinated, then now you can't work in health care," he said.

Cayer says the maternity unit will temporarily close on Sept. 25, when there won't be enough names on the schedule to keep it open.

However, he says, despite that, he sees the numbers in his community.

Lewis County has one of the highest number of positive cases in the state and it appears to be growing. That's why he still fully supports the mandate and what it aims to do.

"Essential health services are at risk, but not because of the mandate," Cayer added. "The mandate ensures we will have a healthy workforce and that we are not responsible for transmission in or out of our facilities."

So what's next?

Cayer hopes some employees have a change of heart, but will begin the recruitment of nurses already vaccinated. That could allow the system to get the unit back open as soon as possible.

In the meantime, other staffers are working to help those who will be affected.

"I've met twice this week, actually three times this week, with obstetric providers at our facility to try to do the best we can to provide for the need of our patients in the community," Lewis County General Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sean Harney said.

That plan will also include reaching out to the State Department of Health and the local prenatal council. There are two hospitals not too far from Lewis County — Samaritan Medical in Watertown and Carthage Area in Carthage — they both have maternity units.