UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) – The Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) held a press briefing on Tuesday November 23rd, to update the public on the status of health care delivery within their system in-light-of the COVID-19 vaccination mandate taking effect.

Darlene Stromstad, president, and CEO of MVHS took advantage of the gathering to first stress the importance of everyone becoming familiar with the warning signs of heart attack and stroke and imploring people to not wait to seek help if they feel that there is a situation where it may be warranted.

As for the situation of the vaccination mandate and the delivery of health care, Stromstad said that the hospital system has seen an increase in staff vaccinations since the deadline for religious accommodations expired yesterday. But there still is a significant number of employees who have not been vaccinated.

“This last Monday, when the religious accommodation was eliminated as an option for health care employees, we had about 200 employees that were out, were covered under religious accommodations. Since then, we have had several more that have come forward and get vaccinated. But we are still seeing an unvaccinated rate, and it changes every day, of more than 100. Plus, the other 75 that we lost earlier this fall. So, we are struggling with a high vacancy rate of employees. It’s similar to what hospitals all over the country are dealing with.” – Darlene Stromstad, President and CEO of MVHS

Stromstad stressed that some of the nursing staff deficiencies are being covered by hiring traveling nurses but noted that the six-week price tag for that is just under two million dollars. As much as a third of the nurses who are on the sidelines have retired. While Stromstad noted that MVHS avoided going on diversion, a move that would restrict access to the hospital emergency rooms, the staffing situation will have an impact.

“There are a few services where we are decreasing accessibility. We are limiting some of our elective surgeries, about 10% to 15%. So, we are still doing most of the things. But we are decreasing them. For impatient surgeries that are scheduled, we will schedule you and do the surgery only when we know there is a bed available. So, if we don’t have open beds in the hospital your surgery might get delayed for a few days. As-long-as they’re not an emergency. If you have an emergency need, that will get taken care of. But some of the electives might get postponed.” – Darlene Stromstad, President and CEO of MVHS

Stromstad said that under these situations it can be business as usual, but MVHS remains committed to providing services to the community.