MVHS faces staffing challenges

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In a Tuesday Mohawk Valley Health System announcement, President/CEO Darlene Stromstad, gave an update on staffing following the vaccine deadline for those who submitted for a religious accommodation related to the previously issued New York State COVID-19 vaccine mandate for those who work in the healthcare industry.

“We are struggling with a high vacancy rate,” Stromstad said, regarding staffing levels.

Stromstad said that as of Monday, the religious accommodation denial handed down from the state led to about 150 people being put on administrative leave as of this week, without pay until a November 30 deadline where they can either be vaccinated and return to work or leave employment at MVHS.

Of that number, about 50 are registered nurses, which translates to about 15% of the total nurses in the MVHS system.

Speaking to staffing challenges, Stromstad said that the hospital system has been on the constant hunt for more nurses and 42 traveling nurses were approved on Monday for a six week time period (a budget expense of $1.9 million), and that 15 more nurses would be approved next week. She said the hospital is also looking for certified nursing associates.

Stromstad said that while the staffing issue is not yet a crisis, it, “definitely is a stress on our organization.”

Currently, about 95% of hospital employees are COVID-19 vaccinated.

Stromstad said that despite the staffing shortage, the hospital system will not go on diversion — a practice in which incoming emergency room traffic is diverted to neighboring hospitals. Further, Stromstad urges those with health emergencies — such as heart attack or stroke — to not wait to seek treatment at an emergency department.

For those with issues such as a toothache, the flu or other common issues, it is suggested that patients call their primary care physician for guidance or seek treatment at an urgent care facility.

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