New York Governor Kathy Hochul plans to bring in the National Guard and recruit medical professionals from other states to cover looming staff shortages at hospitals and other facilities as the likelihood increases that dozens of Thousands of healthcare workers will miss state deadlines for mandatory vaccinations.
In a statement on Saturday, the governor’s office said Ms Hochul was preparing an executive order declaring a state of emergency that “would allow qualified medical professionals licensed in other states or countries, recent graduates, retirees and former health practitioners. healthcare professionals practicing in New York State.
Other options, the statement said, included calling on medically trained National Guard members to provide care and work with the federal government to deploy disaster medical assistance teams, which are managed by the Ministry of Health and Social Services.
New York State is one of the first major testing grounds for stricter vaccination orders across the country in the healthcare industry. California and Maine have also set deadlines for vaccinating healthcare workers. President Biden has said his administration will issue a national immunization mandate that is expected to eventually affect some 17 million healthcare workers in hospitals and other institutions that accept Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.
Employees of New York City hospitals and nursing homes must receive a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by 11:59 p.m. Monday evening, while workers working in home care, hospices and other care facilities for adults must do so before October 7th. , in accordance with state regulations and a warrant issued Aug. 16 by former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.
State vaccination figures show that as of Wednesday, 16% of the state’s approximately 450,000 hospital workers, or about 70,000, were not fully vaccinated. Data shows that 15 percent of staff in skilled nursing facilities and 14 percent of workers in adult care facilities are also not fully immunized, which represents about 25,000 other workers.
Eileen Toback, executive director of the New York Professional Nurses Union, which represents 1,500 nurses in Manhattan and has supported the vaccination mandate, said she appreciated that Ms Hochul was trying to address possible staff shortages. But Ms Toback criticized the state for publishing the plan just 48 hours before thousands of healthcare workers lost their jobs.
“It could be devastating, especially when hospitals only have the exact number they need,” Ms. Toback said. “There is no fat on this bone.”
Ms Toback said about 5 percent of her union members had not been vaccinated. “I believe a lot of unvaccinated workers, not just nurses, are betting that they are so necessary that they won’t be made redundant, and they’re holding up,” she said.
The governor’s office said workers made redundant because they refused to be vaccinated were not eligible for unemployment insurance unless they provided a doctor-approved request for medical accommodation.
Announcing New York’s determination to meet its deadline, Ms Hochul said, “We are still in a battle against Covid to protect our loved ones, and we must fight with all the tools at our disposal.” She also praised the vast majority of state health workers for getting vaccinated and urged “all other unvaccinated health workers to do so now so that they can continue providing care.”
The Greater New York Hospital Association, which represents around 140 health systems and 55 nursing homes, had not released a response to the governor’s plan but supported the deadline for immunization of health workers, reporting that shortages of staff can be managed.
Michael AL Balboni, executive director of the Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association, which represents about 80 nursing homes in the metropolitan area, applauded the governor’s efforts to vaccinate more healthcare workers, but expressed concern regarding staff shortages.
Understanding the mandates of vaccines and masks in the United States
- Vaccination rules. On August 23, the Food and Drug Administration fully approved Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 years of age and older, paving the way for increased tenure in the public and private sectors. Private companies increasingly require vaccines for their employees. Such warrants are authorized by law and have been confirmed in court challenges.
- Mask rules. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July recommended that all Americans, regardless of immunization status, wear masks in indoor public places in areas affected by epidemics, a reversal of guidelines it offered in May. . See where the CDC guidelines would apply and where states have instituted their own mask policies. The battle for masks has become controversial in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.
- College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities require students to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Almost all of them are in states that voted for President Biden.
- Schools. California and New York City have both introduced vaccination mandates for education staff. A survey released in August found that many American parents of school-aged children are opposed to mandatory vaccines for students, but were more in favor of mask mandates for students, teachers and staff who don’t. don’t have their vaccines.
- Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and large healthcare systems are requiring their employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19, citing an increase in the number of cases fueled by the Delta variant and stubbornly low vaccination rates in their communities, even within their hand -work.
- New York City. Proof of vaccination is required from workers and customers for indoor meals, gyms, shows, and other indoor situations, although enforcement does not begin until September 13. Teachers and other education workers in the city’s vast school system will need to have at least one dose vaccine by September 27, with no possibility of weekly testing. Employees of the city’s hospitals must also get vaccinated or undergo weekly tests. Similar rules are in place for New York State employees.
- At the federal level. The Pentagon has said it will seek to make coronavirus vaccination mandatory for the nation’s 1.3 million active-duty soldiers “no later than” mid-September. President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees should be vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel.
“This is a paradox, in that in trying to protect residents and staff, you don’t have enough people to provide the services and you could put people at risk,” Mr. Balboni.
Ms Toback said retirees and others could play a role in helping alleviate shortages, as they did at the start of the pandemic. But she said replacement workers weren’t replacing experienced nurses who worked at the same hospital “13 shifts a month, every month, for years.”
“Nurses have been through a lot – they’re exhausted – and while we understand the need for what we need to get through this pandemic, it only hits people when they’re down,” Ms. Toback said.
Northwell Health, which operates 19 hospitals in the state, said in a statement it “wants to reassure the public that patient care will not be affected” by the warrant and that it is working on contingency plans for meet staffing needs.
Unvaccinated Northwell Health employees have been told they could be made redundant if they don’t receive at least their first dose of vaccine on time, the statement said.
“We are optimistic that we will soon be able to provide fully immunized staff to our patients and the communities we serve,” the statement said.
Michael Levenson contributed reporting.