SUNY Downstate cancels surgeries, other services due to staff shortage following vaccine mandate

A Brooklyn hospital is canceling surgeries and other services due to a staff shortage following the implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for hospital workers.
Fred Kowal, the president of United University Professions, says his union represents thousands of members who work for SUNY Downstate hospitals and has strongly supported getting vaccinated. He says 90% of members have been vaccinated.
"We have lost members— they have been ill. We have seen it within our ranks. So with that as a basis, we owe it to our communities to do what's right, and that means to be vaccinated,” he says.
Kowal says workers who aren't vaccinated are on unpaid leave, with some fighting the mandate in court.
SUNY Downstate says 172 unvaccinated employees were facing disciplinary action as of earlier this week, but told News 12 that number is fluid and continues to drop.
A spokesperson at SUNY Downstate issued a statement that says, “In preparation for anticipated staff reductions due to the state vaccination mandate, SUNY Downstate adjusted its surgical schedule, delayed outpatient radiology appointments, canceled elective C-sections or inductions and consolidated Bay Ridge OR operations to the main OR at the University Hospital of Brooklyn."
Kowal says staff shortages is an issue SUNY Downstate has already been dealing with because the state has continued to cut funding to SUNY hospitals for years.
"It has created a staffing crisis that has been with us for years and now it's at the forefront and could cause real harm,” he says.
Meanwhile, News 12 was told SUNY is “working with employees to bring them into compliance.”