New York officials fear vaccines mandate could lead to shortage of healthcare workers

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Officials in New York City fear COVID-19 vaccine mandates for workers are contributing to staff shortages at healthcare facilities.

State Senator Anthony Palumbo and Assembly Member Fred Thiele wrote to the Governor on September 3, saying: “Many facilities in our districts have reached out, fearing an impending crisis in care and a widespread shortage. staff would be created because of the vaccination mandate. “

The letter says healthcare workers cannot afford the high costs of housing in the East End and that there is no back-up labor pool in the area. The letter calls on lawmakers to call for the governor’s plan of action in the event that healthcare facilities should “refuse admissions or divert patients into a situation where they are ill-equipped to provide quality care due to a lack of of personnel ”.

Governor Kathy Hochul acknowledged the problem at a press conference a few days later. The state will reach a “crisis level” with health workers, in part because of immunization mandates. But it also doubled the need for the vaccine to keep workers healthy against the Delta variant of the virus.

“I know there are people who are reluctant to take the vaccine and work in these settings,” Hochul said. She added that “we have to realize that there is a huge risk when someone is there to take care of people’s health needs.”

Hochul said the state is working with unions that represent current employees to “address their concerns and needs,” which may possibly include testing requirements. She also wants to find more staff for these facilities.

Former Governor Andrew Cuomo imposed the mandate on Aug. 16, a week before his resignation. The deadline for hospitals and nursing home workers to receive their first dose is September 27, while other healthcare workers must receive their first dose by October 7.

There is no test alternative to politics, and no option for a religious exemption. The exclusion of a religious exemption has been temporarily suspended by a federal court in a lawsuit filed by a group of healthcare workers. However, the state believes the argument they will make in federal court on September 28 will overturn the ruling. The health ministry said in an email that a religious exemption was not required by the Constitution.

Available coronavirus vaccines are free and effective in preventing viral infection and preventing serious illness. The latest CDC data shows people who were not fully vaccinated were 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19.

The mandates met with resistance. Protests against the warrants, mainly from politically conservative groups like the Long Island Loud Majority Facebook page, have erupted in New York hospitals, including the Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead. Some hospitals have already seen the impact of resigning as a result of the tenure, including Lewis County General Hospital in the upstate, which stopped giving birth after 30 employees left.

Doctors and nurses are the two health professions with the highest vaccination rates, according to surveys conducted by the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association. Vaccination rates for other healthcare workers are lower, including those in nursing homes that serve the population most vulnerable to the virus, at 63.7%, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The New York State Health Facilities Association, a trade association representing nursing homes and assisted living facilities, is asking the state to change vaccine policy to allow a vaccine exemption if testing and personal protective equipment appropriate are used. In a letter to State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker last Monday, the organization said the amendment is necessary to ensure long-term care facilities will be able to retain staff in the midst of an existing workforce shortage currently affecting 94% of skilled nursing providers.

Acadia Nursing and Rehabilitation Center administrator Mary Ann Mangels said Riverhead Nursing Home, which has 181 certified beds, has fewer than 10 staff leaving due to the mandate.

“This will have a temporary impact on the facilities, depending on which employees are leaving,” Mangels said. “But I personally think the benefits outweigh that. The fact that we have a lot more people vaccinated, I think, is a good thing. “

Mangels said that because the vaccine for healthcare workers was also federally mandated, refusing the vaccine would mean the employee would have to leave healthcare. “And I don’t think that’s what people want to do,” she said.

Amy Loeb, executive director of Peconic Bay Medical Center-Northwell Health, said a few people had stepped down due to the tenure, but the hospital has plans in place to ensure it doesn’t affect their service in the region. In early August, the Northwell health system made vaccination or weekly testing mandatory for its more than 76,000 employees as of August 16.

“There are system-wide workforce planning and working groups working on contingency plans to make sure we’re meeting needs,” Loeb said. “But ultimately, as healthcare professionals, it is our unique responsibility to protect the health of our patients from each other. [and] our community. “

Loeb continues to encourage everyone to get vaccinated. “Although we have remained stable in terms of the number of hospitalizations, we are seeing seriously ill, unvaccinated people in the hospital and it is very unfortunate every time we see it,” she said. .

Stony Brook Medicine officials said in an email as of September 14, “Stony Brook Southampton Hospital and Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital have not had a significant impact on staff levels.” because of the mandate. “We are constantly monitoring the situation to optimize preparation and make the necessary adjustments,” the email said.

It is up to the individual entities covered by the mandate to develop an implementation plan and find out what happens if employees don’t comply, which could include termination, the State Department said. Health in an e-mail.

“Options for remedying non-compliance by covered entities include citations and a statement of deficiencies, as well as referral for enforcement that could result in civil penalties,” DOH spokesperson Erin Silk wrote, in an email. “The ministry could also order the facility to comply with the mandate under section 16 of the Public Health Act.”

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