ROCHESTER, N.Y. — As the deadline for New York state health care workers to get vaccinated took effect Monday, hundreds of protesters gathered in front of Strong Memorial Hospital to protest against the mandate.
Chants and blaring horns were all you could hear outside the hospital Monday evening.
“The whole thing makes me so sad and so hurt because I feel there’s so many excellent nurses that are losing their jobs because of a mandate,” said Kris Brickler, a registered nurse with UR Medicine Health System.
Strong Memorial Hospital employs more than 26,000 people, but as of Monday afternoon, it expects to lose less than 300 clinical staff because of the vaccination mandate.
“I believe that they’re trying to do right by people,” Brickler said. “They’re just not doing right by their staff, by their employees…”
Some protesters say they believe the mandate is devastating for the health care industry.
“I just wanted time, I wanted some time to see how it was going to play out," Brickler said of the vaccine. “It was an experiment and we know that.”
“I don’t think we should be forced to take an experimental vaccine that have no proof of actually being effective for a disease that is not actually a danger to my children at all,” said David Fronczak, a protester from North Chili.
Kathy Parrinello, CEO and executive vice president of Strong Memorial Hospital, responded to protesters at an earlier press conference.
“You know, we hear a lot about choice,” Parrinello said. “And of course, everyone has a right to choose to be vaccinated. However, those of us in the medical field, we know that vaccines are safe and we know they’re effective.”
Kris Brickler says she has been a registered nurse with UR Medicine for 24 years, and she will keep her job for now because of a religious exemption. However, she’s unsure of the future.
“I don’t think I can stay in health care," said Brickler. "Honestly, I need to look for something else."
UR Medical Center reported that, as of Monday morning, 97.5% of clinical staff will remain eligible to continue working at Strong Memorial Hospital, with 95.5% of clinical staff having received at least one dose of vaccine.