As New York prepares to enforce the deadline for COVID-19 vaccination on Monday, governor Kathy Hochul said a state of emergency and other options including hiring health workers into the National Guard are on the table to address potential staff shortages in hospitals. In preparation for Monday’s vaccination deadline, Governor Hochuls’ office released a comprehensive plan to address avoidable shortages of staff at hospitals and other health facilities today. Unvaccinated health workers, from janitors to surgeons, are not out of the country, but if they are not allowed back to work, hospitals and nursing homes will discharge them.
The COVID-19 vaccination mandate for health care workers in New York goes into effect Monday. Hospitals and nursing homes across the state are bracing for a severe staffing shortage triggered by the suspension or dismissal of workers who refuse to be vaccinated. Officials say 84% of state employees have already been vaccinated and thousands are likely to be on hold, but administrations are preparing contingency plans that could include cutting back on critical services and limiting nursing home admissions. New York Governor Kathy Hochul said Saturday that she is considering recruiting the national guard and medical staff out of the country to fill staff shortages at 16 of the state’s hospitals, which are staffed by 72,000 unvaccinated workers. The New York State Department of Health issued an order last month requiring health workers to receive the first Covid-19 shot, or at least until September 27, sparking a rush for hospitals to vaccinate as many staff as possible.
New York hospitals are preparing to lay off thousands of health care workers who do not comply with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate that goes into effect on Monday. Benefits are cut in upstate regions to cope with staff shortages. New York City health officials said that about 5,000 employees of the public hospital system of the city have not been vaccinated under the statewide health-care immunization mandate, leaving them unable to return to work without pay. New York Governor Kathy Hochul said she is considering bringing in the National Guard and medical staff from other states to address the likely staffing shortages, with 16 percent of the state’s 450,000 hospital staff, or about 72,000 unvaccinated workers.
The New York State Department of Health issued an order last month requiring health workers to receive at least the first shot of COVID-19 by September 27, sparking a rush for hospitals to vaccinate their employees. New York’s largest hospital system, Northwell Health, began firing employees who refused to administer their coronavirus vaccine after the incident. The NYSDOH vote set a deadline for hospitals and nursing homes to have their employees vaccinated against COVID, with the first dose to be administered by September 28.
Compulsory vaccination for health workers in New York is the largest mandate of its kind to come into force in the United States, and weekly virus tests are not approved as a substitute measure. According to regulations issued by the State Department of Health, all health care workers of New York State hospitals and nursing homes must be vaccinated by Monday, September 27 against COVID-19 with the first dose and all other covered facilities, including home care, hospice and adult care facilities must be fully vaccinated by October 7. The rules apply to all contract physicians practicing in New York. The University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System said employees and other staff at its hospitals and clinics must be vaccinated by November 12.
State data show that 84 percent of the 450,000 hospital staff in the states were vaccinated, as well as 83 percent of the 145,400 nursing home workers. Sixteen of Alabama’s 450,00 hospital workers are unvaccinated, the governor’s office said. Other options include sending vaccinated workers from other states or tapping college graduates and retired workers, much as New York did at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, when hospitals were overwhelmed by COVID cases.
Health workers who were fired for refusing to vaccinate are not eligible for unemployment insurance if they are unable to make a valid, doctor-approved application for medical care, Hochul’s office said. A federal judge in Albany commanded New York State officials to allow religious exemptions from the state-mandated vaccine mandate for health workers, which was introduced by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and took effect Monday. The injunction, which prevents the state from enforcing its medical immunization mandate and seeking religious exemptions, was related to a suit filed by 17 Catholic and Baptist doctors who claimed that the state had prohibited religious exemptions from the mandate as unconstitutional.
Governor Hochul and the New York Department of Health have argued that there are religious exemptions for other necessary vaccines such as the rubella and measles for New York health workers, and that the vaccine mandate in its current form is no different. Some hospitals reported that 84% of their 450,000 employees had been vaccinated by Wednesday, up from 81% on September 15. That could leave the future employment of 72,000 hospital workers unclear, as many hospitals apparently allow workers to get vaccinated before the end of Monday to keep their jobs.
What’s next for New York City and its Healthcare workers?
To be continued…