Many of New York’s hospitals face staffing shortages as the coronavirus vaccine mandate for healthcare workers goes into effect Tuesday.
Gov. Kathy Hochul intends to enforce a mandate announced by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in August for all hospital workers in New York to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by Sept. 27 or lose their jobs.
“We’ll be nation-leading in our mandate, which strikes at midnight tonight,” Hochul said on Monday.
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Hochul announced she would sign an executive order that would allow her to deploy the National Guard to fill any staffing shortfalls at hospitals and other healthcare facilities. It would also allow healthcare professionals who are retired, formerly practicing, or licensed in other states and countries to fill staffing gaps.
Those gaps could be quite large. Of the roughly 450,000 hospital workers in the state, roughly 16% (about 72,000 employees) had not been fully vaccinated as of last week, according to the New York State Department of Health.
Last week, Northwell Health, New York’s largest healthcare provider, reported 90% of its roughly 74,000 employees were vaccinated. Efforts are underway to persuade unvaccinated employees to get the shot.
In a statement to the Washington Examiner, Northwell spokeswoman Andrea Mineo said that as of Monday, nearly 100% of employees were vaccinated. However, Mineo said about two dozen unvaccinated employees “were exited from the system” last week and that Northwell was “beginning the process to exit the rest of [its] unvaccinated staff.” She was unable to say how many employees that would be, calling the situation “fluid.”
A spokesperson for the University of Rochester Medical Center said 97.5% of its employees across its six hospitals are vaccinated. Despite that, the UR’s urgent care centers in Spencerport and Farmington will temporarily close, and the hospital in Strong will enact a two-week pause on elective procedures to deal with staffing shortages.
Erie County Medical Center Corporation in Buffalo could lose nearly 400 workers, roughly 10% of its workforce, who are not yet vaccinated, according to the Associated Press. That could result in reduced hours at outpatient clinics and a suspension of some inpatient elective procedures.
Lewis County General Hospital closed its maternity ward on Sept. 24 after 30 employees resigned over the vaccination requirement. At that time, about 165 employees at the hospital remained unvaccinated. The hospital did not return the Washington Examiner’s request for an update.
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New York Health and Hospitals, which represents New York City’s 11 public hospitals, appeared to be one system that didn’t anticipate staffing problems. At Mayor Bill de Blasio’s press conference Monday, NYHH CEO Dr. Mitchell Katz said, “All of our facilities are open and fully functional.” He reported about 95% of the system’s nurses and 98%-99% of the physicians were vaccinated.
New York is the first state to impose a vaccination mandate on healthcare workers as a condition of continued employment. Five other states have similar vaccine mandates for healthcare workers with deadlines in October, including Colorado, Maine, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington.