New York’s Covid-19 Vaccination Mandate for Healthcare Workers Suspends Hundreds of Holdouts

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As of Monday evening, 92% of hospital staff, 92% of nursing home staff and 89% of adult care facility staff had at least one dose of vaccine, Governor Kathy Hochul’s office said. Vaccination rates have risen significantly in the past four weeks as the state neared the vaccination deadline, Hochul said.

“This new information shows that sticking to the vaccine mandate for health care workers to protect our vulnerable family members and loved ones from COVID-19 is simply the right thing to do,” she said.

Last month, the New York State Department of Health issued an order requiring all health care workers in the state to be vaccinated against Covid-19 by September 27.

“We have been patient, but our patience is failing and your refusal has cost us all,” Biden said earlier this month.

States have long required hospital workers to be vaccinated against other diseases to better protect staff and patients from outbreaks.
In New York, the vast majority of healthcare workers have been vaccinated against Covid-19, but the requirement could still result in significant numbers of workers being incapacitated – bottlenecks that, ironically, lead to poorer medical care for patients with the disease. The state is facing a similar potential labor shortage due to its vaccine mandates in schools and courts.

To address these potential bottlenecks, Governor Hochul signed an executive order on Monday evening that will expand the available health care staff and allow additional staff to conduct Covid-19 tests and vaccinations. Specifically, the arrangement allows health workers from other states and countries to practice in New York and waived the re-registration fee to expedite the process.

“The only way to overcome this pandemic is to make sure that all beneficiaries are vaccinated, including those who care for our vulnerable family members and loved ones,” Hochul said in a statement.

Where New York’s hospitals are

Any state health care worker who does not receive at least one dose of vaccine by the end of the day on Monday will, subject to approved exceptions, be “immediately suspended,” according to the New York State Department of Health.

Employees across the state who refused to be vaccinated have been suspended or fired from hospital systems.

Northwell Health, a New York hospital system with over 76,000 employees, said in a statement Tuesday that they have initiated a “process of abandoning all unvaccinated team members.”

New York City’s public hospital system, Health + Hospitals (H + H), is doing well with no disruption to care at its facilities, said CEO Dr. Mitchell Katz on Tuesday. He said the staff had “tremendous success” in meeting the vaccine mandate.

The hospital system has complied with the mandate to over 91%, said Stephanie M. Guzmán, deputy spokeswoman for H + H, to CNN on Tuesday. NYC H + H employees who are not vaccinated will be put on unpaid leave but can return if they are vaccinated, Guzmán said.

Katz also said he spoke to hospital administrators from across the city and all of them reported that their hospitals are open and functioning normally.

The governor of New York expects a possible health care shortage due to non-compliance with the vaccine mandate

“All of the New York City hospitals are fully operational and doing well,” said Katz.

A day earlier, Katz said that around 98-99% of doctors and over 95% of nurses had been vaccinated. He is also not aware of staff shortages in private hospitals.

The New York Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said Monday he didn’t expect any major impact on patient care but acknowledged there could be some staffing issues.

“I expect that in some places where more health workers need to be vaccinated, some operational adjustments may need to be made, especially to ensure that staffing is the most important and that the intensive care unit or operating rooms are adequately staffed,” said Chokshi.

The vast majority of staff at the Mount Sinai and New York-Presbyterian hospitals in New York City have met the state’s vaccine mandate, according to spokesmen for both health facilities.

Mount Sinai expects less than 1% of its staff to be laid off for failing to meet its vaccine mandate, a spokesman said.

Meanwhile, New York Presbyterians set their own vaccination deadline last week, the hospital said in a statement. More than 99% of the hospital’s 48,000 employees are fully vaccinated, said spokeswoman Suzanne Halpin, adding that fewer than 250 employees have chosen not to adhere to the mandate.

“We will continue to provide exceptional, uninterrupted care in all of our hospitals,” she said.

Hospitals in the state are suspending hundreds of employees

At the Erie County Medical Center Corporation (ECMC), approximately 7% of the workforce was given leave of absence due to the vaccination mandate, the health facility said in a press release on Monday.

According to spokesman Peter Cutler, a total of 276 employees across the company’s health system were put on 30-day unpaid administrative leave because the Covid-19 vaccine was not received on time. That total includes 176 out of 3,303 employees at ECMC’s Main Hospital and 100 out of 474 employees at Terrace View Long-Term Care.

“The employees work voluntarily on extra shifts,” said Cutler. “If necessary, we will relocate employees from other areas of our institution.”

The ECMC has suspended elective inpatient surgeries and will temporarily not accept transfers to intensive care from other health facilities before the deadline for the vaccination mandate expires on Monday, the medical center said in a statement. ECMC has also cut working hours in outpatient departments and reduced the number of units in one of its long-term care facilities.

In addition, as of Tuesday, the Albany Medical Center suspended 204 employees, or 1.7% of its employees, for a week for non-compliance with its vaccine mandate. If employees remain unvaccinated after the seven-day ban, they will be fired, said spokeswoman Susan Ford.

“The number is expected to be fluid as there are employees who are on vacation, are on leave, do not have to work or have not yet had the opportunity to submit their vaccine papers,” said Ford.

Ford said the medical center was taking “proactive measures to recruit and retain staff, including referral bonuses and participation rewards”. She added that the medical center is working to develop “thoughtful solutions” to continue patient care uninterrupted, in order to “keep the cancellation or postponement of operations to a minimum”.

CNN’s Mirna Alsharif, Kaitlan Collins, Aya Elamroussi, Kevin Liptak and Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report.


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