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Vaccine mandate could compound staff shortage at local hospitals

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Vaccine mandate could compound staff shortage at local hospitals

HUDSON, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Capital Region is seeing the impacts of a nation-wide nursing shortage at local hospitals. With a vaccine mandate starting on Monday for workers, Columbia Memorial Hospital may be at its tipping point.

“They’re dealing with a seven-to-one ratio, which I feel is extremely dangerous. You know, they’re overworked. They’ve been underpaid for too long,” said Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson.  

Johnson said staffing at the hospital has been a long-standing issue, but over the last year it’s gotten worse.  

“A lot of the nurses that I have talked to, they are forgoing their breaks or taking 10-minute lunch breaks because, you know, patient care, they’re putting it above their own care,” Johnson said.  

An impending vaccine mandate for hospital workers is expected to crush an already fragile health care system. 83 percent of hospital workers in Columbia County have completed their vaccine series. That’s a number much lower compared to nearby counties.  

“Our ambulances throughout the county are experiencing longer wait times to be able to turn the patients over at some of the hospitals,” said Green County EMS Coordinator Sean Hotaling. 

Hotaling said ambulances are having to wait two to five hours in hospital parking lots until they can get a patient in. The coordinator said they’re keeping an eye on wait times to get patients in to other hospitals. 

“Luckily, we still have a bunch of options of places to go so we’re not bombarding one facility with the majority of emergency service calls,” Hotaling said. 

In a statement Columbia Memorial writes in part, “CMH has responded to these unique challenges by prioritizing our staff resources and deploying them to areas of greatest need.”  

“My biggest fear is that as we go into the colder months and people start to get sick more and more, we’re going to have serious issues in all of our hospitals,” Johnson said. 

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