- Rich Klein
Hundreds Brace For Pink Slips at Garnet Health; Two Members of Exec. Leadership Team Leaving
(This is a developing story on Thursday, September 22)
(file photo via The SullivanTimes and Rich Klein New York Photography)
HARRIS - Hundreds of Garnet Health employees across Sullivan and Orange could be outright terminated or forced to resign in coming days due to their refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19 - a violation of Garnet's employment policy, according to multiple sources who have messaged The SullivanTimes today.
Garnet has hospitals in Harris, Callicoon and Middletown along with three urgent care centers, including one in Monticello.
One source said that while most who will lose their jobs are unvaccinated, there are some fully vaccinated employees who are resigning in protest of the Garnet policy.
On Wednesday, September 22, The SullivanTimes learned that Brian Tew, CEO of Garnet Health Medical Center, has submitted his resignation. That was confirmed a few minutes later with the memo published below. He is now believed to be the second member of Garnet's "Executive Leadership" team to be departing.
The total number of employees expected to depart on or around September 27 is 600, according to one source, while another employee told The SullivanTimes the number is closer to 500. Another source put the figure at north of 1,000. No figure has been confirmed, and likely won't be, by Garnet Health at press time.. However, some of those who will be dismissed reportedly include some of the most senior executives, doctors and medical staff.
One source wrote: "The email notice to employees is a forced resignation process after leave without pay. Employees who do not get first shot by 9/27 will be sent off duty without pay and will automatically be deemed to have resigned employment giving seven days notice. All departments are being affected.. it’s an across the board issue."
A third source sent The SullivanTimes documents that are reportedly emails exchanged between an employee representative (s) and Garnet management that lay out some of the guidelines for the terminations.
Although Garnet hasn't commented on the terminations, last week it released a video of an employee who told a story about her brush with death from Covid and the importance of getting vaccinated. The registered nurse told the harrowing story of when she was intubated for a month and getting care at Albany Medical Center her 28-year-old son was already hospitalized at Garnet and died from Covid.
(The SullivanTimes, in an editorial last week and a podcast this week, urged county officials to do a better job of talking about Covid and to deal with the multiple crises at Garnet, including the closure of its Skilled Nursing Unit at the end of September).
Meanwhile, there's another twist that will impact Garnet on this issue as well as every hospital and nursing home in the state.
An emergency temporary restraining order was filed in federal court on September 13 by a group who allege that it is illegal for New York State's Department of Health to mandate vaccinations for healthcare workers without allowing for religious exemptions. The order calls for healthcare workers at the state's general hospitals and nursing homes to receive at least one dose of a Covid vaccine by September 27.
The case is before Judge David Hurd of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, who sits in Utica. On September 14, the judge granted the "TRO" and a new court date was then set for September 28. But yesterday, September 20, Hurd issued a new order that extends the temporary restraining order and moves the court date to October 12.
"A written decision on plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction will be issued on or before October 12, 2021," the judge stated in his order issued yesterday (September 20).
The Health Department order under attack by the plaintiffs states: "The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. They offer the benefit of helping to reduce the number of COVID-19 infections, including the Delta variant, which is a critical component to protecting public health. Certain settings, such as healthcare facilities and congregate care settings, pose increased challenges and urgency for controlling the spread of this disease because of the vulnerable patient and resident populations that they serve. Unvaccinated personnel in such settings have an unacceptably high risk of both acquiring COVID-19 and transmitting the virus to colleagues and/or vulnerable patients or residents, exacerbating staffing shortages, and causing unacceptably high risk of complications. In response to this significant public health threat, through this emergency regulation, the Department is requiring covered entities to ensure their personnel are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and to document evidence thereof in appropriate records. Covered entities are also required to review and make determinations on medical exemption requests, and provide reasonable accommodations therefor to protect the wellbeing of the patients, residents and personnel in such facilities. Documentation and information regarding personnel vaccinations as well as exemption requests granted are required to be provided to the Department immediately upon request"
As Hurd pointed out yesterday, though, "unlike a previously applicable Public Health Order, the new regulation excludes any religious exemption."
A non-scientific search by The SullivanTimes on LinkedIn jobs for Garnet tonight revealed many jobs posted in the past week as seen below.
Meanwhile, WJFF is calling Garnet/Catskills CEO Jonathan Schiller a "healthcare hero" and is honoring him at an event on September 30.