As Vaccination Deadline Nears, Hospitals, State Prepare for Staff Shortage

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced plans Saturday to deal with possible medical staffing issues resulting from the Covid-19 vaccine deadline on Monday.

All healthcare workers in New York State must be vaccinated by Monday or face losing their jobs.

“We are still in a battle against COVID to protect our loved ones, and we need to fight with every tool at our disposal,”  Hochul said. “I am monitoring the staffing situation closely, and we have a plan to increase our health care workforce and help alleviate the burdens on our hospitals and other health care facilities. I commend all of the health care workers who have stepped up to get themselves vaccinated, and I urge all remaining health care workers who are unvaccinated to do so now so they can continue providing care.”

Northwell Health, which includes Huntington Hospital, told The New York Times that  they may have to fire thousands of workers who refuse to get vaccinated.

Hochul’s plan includes preparing to sign an executive order to declare a state of emergency that could include allowing qualified health care professionals licensed in other states or countries, recent graduates, retired and formerly practicing health care professionals to practice in New York State.

The Department of Labor  said that workers who are terminated because of refusal to be vaccinated are not eligible for unemployment insurance absent a valid doctor-approved request for medical accommodation.

Other options include deploying medically trained National Guard members, and partnering with the federal government to deploy Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs) to assist local health and medical systems. 

Northwell Health issued this statement on Friday:

Northwell joined other health systems and organizations across the country in taking reasonable steps to ensure our staff are protected and available to care for the patients and communities we serve.

We are proud that 91 percent of our workforce has been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Unvaccinated team members have been notified about the need to receive at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Monday, Sept. 27 or be subject to adverse action, up to and including termination.

Northwell wants to reassure the public that patient care will not be affected by the New York State’s 9/27 vaccine mandate.

A system-wide workforce planning taskforce is working on contingency plans to ensure that we can meet staffing needs.

As health care professionals and members of the largest health care provider in New York State, we have a unique responsibility to protect the health of our patients and each other.   We care for sick people – some critically ill – every day, and we are responsible for their safety while in our care. We are optimistic that these mandates will soon allow us to provide a fully vaccinated staff to our patients and the communities we serve.

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