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Health workers’ mandate on vaccines could spark legal action against Dutchess

Hospital staff in the region plan to sue for relief from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement instituted by the Nuvance Health group and New York.

However, it is not clear exactly how many healthcare workers are interested in taking action against the mandate.

Patricia Finn, a Rockland-based civil rights lawyer specializing in vaccination suits, said on Thursday she intended to take legal action against Governor Kathy Hochul, the Department of Health’s State, the Nuvance Health Group and the Vassar Brothers Medical Center. She did not say when it could be tabled, but said a strike was possible without an amicable resolution.

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Chelsea Patton, a registered nurse in a surgical unit in Vassar, recently launched a GoFundMe page with the intention of raising funds to hire Finn on behalf of the workers at Vassar and the Northern Dutchess Hospital at Nuvance Institution. Finn said his client worked at Vassar but didn’t say if it was Patton.

All Nuvance workers at all levels of their operations face a deadline of October 1 to be fully immunized as a condition of employment. Last week, the state’s health department approved a vaccination mandate for all healthcare workers and removed a planned religious exemption; Hospital and nursing home workers should receive their first dose by September 27, while all other healthcare workers should be vaccinated by October 7.

A crowd of dozens protested the warrants Thursday on Columbia Street outside Vassar Brothers; the group was a mix of employees, families and friends of employees and supporters.

As of the end of August, Nuvance reported that 53% of its workforce at Vassar Brothers in Poughkeepsie had been fully vaccinated, with staff at Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck at 63%. Dutchess’ other hospital in Poughkeepsie, the MidHudson Regional of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network, said it had an 88% vaccination rate.

Health and government officials have long argued that vaccines are the best tool to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, with studies repeatedly showing that inoculations dramatically reduce the likelihood of contracting the disease, and for those who still do, decreasing the chances of experiencing the virus’ most serious effects. According to statistics from the county health department, about 80% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 last month were not vaccinated or had not completed their series of vaccines.

Patton on his GoFundMe called the vaccination mandate “undue difficulty” which is “unfathomable”, and said the group was seeking “freedom of choice.”

Protesters gather outside Vassar Brothers Medical Center on September 2 to challenge the healthcare provider's vaccine requirements.

Finn called his complainant “Jane Doe Nurse,” who “suffers irreparable harm and cannot be vaccinated. She is a primary care nurse and has been exposed to COVID. She does not need a vaccine because of her natural immunity. His religion also prohibits the practice of vaccination.

Health officials have recommended that even those who have had the disease be vaccinated, as antibodies built by COVID-19 infection have been shown to decrease over time.

Finn said she “hoped for an out-of-court settlement with the new governor” and that the deadline for complying with a vaccination warrant would be pushed back to January. Otherwise, she said, the workers plan to strike. Finn said no other health care system will be included in the lawsuit.

Governor Kathy Hochul, since taking the oath last week, has openly expressed her support for the vaccine mandates. Last week, she made the headlines wearing a necklace with a single word: “Vaxed”.

Finn is not the first Hudson Valley lawyer to discuss the possibility of legal action from healthcare workers. Michael Sussman, an Orange County civil rights attorney, said he had been in contact with about 120 workers from various work sectors, including the healthcare industry, considering taking action against the warrants vaccination.

Vaccine supporters have argued that vaccinations against other diseases, such as polio and measles, have been a requirement in New York for years to do things like attend public schools.

Protesters gather outside Vassar Brothers Medical Center on September 2 to challenge the healthcare provider's vaccine requirements.

Dozens of rallies

At the rally Thursday, Jessica Johnson, an anesthesia technician, said she would rather risk losing her job than get the shot.

“They take away our religious freedom and our medical exemptions,” Johnson said. “It’s no different from any other drug vaccine and they shouldn’t start imposing it now. It’s against the law, it’s unconstitutional.”

Most of those at the rally were not wearing masks and many carried signs such as “Don’t shoot the frontline heroes, we have the right choice 2” and “Freedom, not strength”.

Victoria Alexander, who described herself as a philosopher of biology, said she didn’t think a vaccine was needed to fight the pandemic.

“Treat this disease like we would treat any serious disease with treatment, targeted protection for the most vulnerable and allow people with good immune systems to come out and lead normal lives, and if they get sick, or when they do get sick. , because it’s quite contagious, to seek treatment early, ”explained Alexander.

Alexander declined to say whether or not she had been vaccinated, saying she feared there was “serious prejudice against undocumented migrants.”

Others in the crowd called the warrant a violation of their personal freedoms. A health worker said he was already complying with Vassar’s demands, but said it was not his choice.

Nuvance President and CEO Dr John M. Murphy, when Nuvance announced the tenure last month, said in a statement: Members of the community. We have proven throughout the pandemic that we can meet even the most difficult challenges when we work together. We must continue to work together by getting vaccinated against COVID-19 so that we can have a safe environment for our patients and for each other. “

Saba Ali: [email protected]; 845-451-4518.


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Justine T. Smith

The author Justine T. Smith

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