CENTRAL NEW YORK (WSYR-TV)– Frontline healthcare workers were praised as heroes during the height of the pandemic, but the ones refusing to get vaccinated, despite the state mandate, feel like they’re being forgotten.
“It’s a hero to zero situation,” said Karen Downey, an emergency room nurse at Oswego Hospital.
Downey has been working in the profession for over 30 years and has decided not to get the vaccine because she believes in medical freedom and says it goes against her religion. She has submitted a religious exemption for her beliefs but is still awaiting Oswego Health’s decision.
“I’m just going to work until this is figured out and I’m just hoping that they come to their senses and allow people their freedom, their medical freedom,” she said.
Her daughter, an ICU nurse at Crouse Hospital in Syracuse was denied her religious exemption request and is now looking for work.
“I never thought I would live in a world where you were forced to be injected with something to keep a job that you’ve had for 31 years,” Downey said.
Victoria Wallace, an LPN at The Commons on St. Anthony nursing home in Auburn said she’s not getting the vaccine because there are too many unknowns for her.
“But come next weekend when I would typically join my crew and work you know both Saturday and Sunday night even though I worked the whole week at school, I just won’t be there,” Wallace said.
This decision will not only hurt their wallets as they won’t qualify for unemployment, but it’s also hurting their hearts.
“It’s just a lot when you’re losing people that you’ve worked with for six years that have really become your family and you have residents that have been your family for the past six years,” Wallace said as she choked back tears.
Governor Kathy Hochul has already released a plan to replace them with National Guard members, retirees, and other qualified healthcare professionals if the staffing shortage gets worse.
“You can bring in nurses from all over wherever you want to but you’re not going to replace the personal connection that so many nurses–because we are local– have with these people,” Wallace said.
As for what’s next for these two healthcare workers, that’s up in the air right now.