Two state legislators claim one-third of hospital employees are unvaccinated

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Time is ticking for hospital workers and teachers across New Mexico to vaccinated. Some state senators are saying unvaccinated healthcare workers might leave New Mexico rather than get the vaccine.

Sen. David Gallegos, who represents a portion of southeast New Mexico, spoke with KOB 4 about the concern he has heard from his constituents.

“We started getting calls from nurses and practitioners and the some of the CEOs in the state and their numbers – some were higher, some were lower – but some had an average of about a third of their staff aren’t vaccinated,” Sen. David Gallegos said. “The other thing that is really hard for Lee and Eddy County and anywhere along the state lines, since they are so close to another state with different rules and regulations, our nurses are considering changing jobs across state lines.”

Gallegos said that could lead to big problems if hospital workers choose to quit their jobs or get fired rather than get vaccinated. So we asked, how serious are these threats of leaving?

“I hope it’s a knee-jerk reaction but in discussions yesterday they are already looking for places to live. For me, to uproot my whole family, it would have to be very serious to even contemplate it. Now, for them to already be looking right after the governor’s announcement, they’re prepared to see what they have to do," Gallegos said.

In a statement issued yesterday with fellow Republican Sen. Gregg Schmedes, Gallegos warned of a "forced shortage of healthcare workers and possible hospital closures due to a lack of staff."

But a statement from Nora Meyers Sackett, press secretary for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, defended the vaccine mandate:

"Every difficult decision she makes is to protect the health and wellbeing of all New Mexicans, in communities both large and small. Health care workers are trusted to care for and save the lives of New Mexicans in their most vulnerable moments, which is why it is of critical importance that they be vaccinated."

The governor’s office also pointed to a statement from various medical associations representing healthcare workers in support of the vaccine mandate.

But Sen. Gallegos said these types of decisions should be decided by local governments.

“I think it goes back to local control. So a few weeks ago we talked to Secretary Stewart as he was leaving, and we asked to find common ground middle ground," Gallegos said. “My thing is, if you had local health departments or local school board or local community doctors come together and make this decision, it would have been taken easier."