ALBANY – Some New York City hospitals and nursing homes began laying off workers on Monday for failing to meet the state’s deadline for getting a COVID-19 vaccine as Governor Kathy Hochul pleaded the refractory to get vaccines at the 11th hour.
It was not clear on Monday whether a wave of suspensions and dismissals of healthcare workers who refused to be vaccinated would lead to a dramatic staff shortage. Hochul said workers had until the end of the day Monday to receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, as required.
“To those who have not yet made this decision, please do the right thing” Hochul said during a press briefing. “A lot of your employers are eager to give you a helping hand and say that you are part of the family, we need your help to keep going. “
The rules apply not only to people like doctors and nurses, but also to others who work in healthcare facilities, like food service workers, administrators and cleaners.
Employees who refuse the shootings risk suspensions and dismissals. And workers fired for refusing to be vaccinated are not eligible for unemployment insurance without a medical accommodation request approved by a doctor.
Hochul has held firm on the mandate in the face of calls to delay it and multiple lawsuits, insisting the state must protect vulnerable patients.
Some refractories say that vaccination should be a personal choice.
“I really got to a point where if I got it, I would be disgusted with myself for being heavily armed. Just morally, I have the impression that it would put me in a bad situation of self-loathing ”, said Jessica Bond, who was a physiotherapy assistant at the Brothers of Mercy nursing home in the Buffalo suburb of Clarence.
His last day was Friday.
Bond, who feared the side effects of the shot, said she had worked extra shifts during the pandemic to help fill in the gaps after many of her colleagues resigned.
“So it’s a bit of a kick in the face now to go through it all, because it’s like, well, I was pretty good then” said Bond, who was part of an unsuccessful legal challenge to the warrant.
She is considering starting a home cleaning business.
The Erie County Medical Center Corporation in Buffalo said about 5% of its hospital workforce has been placed on unpaid leave as a result of the tenure, along with 20% of its nursing home staff. The state’s largest healthcare provider, Northwell Health, said about two dozen unvaccinated employees he called executives were “Out of the system”, and that they would begin this process for the rest of the unvaccinated staff. A spokesperson declined to clarify.
Non-compliant employees at hospitals managed by the State University of New York face “Immediate suspension and termination in progress” Tuesday, according to a note sent to administrators by Chancellor Jim Malatras.
“If people are not vaccinated, they will not be paid today”, said Mitchell Katz, head of the New York Public Hospital System. “But we’re keeping the lines of communication open, and we’re hoping that if it’s not today, then by tomorrow people will get their shots and get back to work.”
About 84% of New York’s more than 450,000 hospital workers were fully immunized as of Wednesday, according to state data. Nursing home data, up to Sunday, showed about 89% of nursing home workers were fully immunized.
Northwell Health said nearly 100% of its workforce was vaccinated. The city’s hospital system reported a rate of 95% for nurses and a higher rate for doctors. Albany Medical Center said 98% of its staff were vaccinated.
As the vaccination deadline approaches, hospitals and nursing homes have developed contingency plans for staff shortages, including reducing non-critical services and limiting nursing home admissions . The mandate comes as hospitals are already reeling from staff shortages fueled in part by retiring workers and employees looking for other jobs after 18 months of the pandemic.
Hochul said she would sign an executive order giving her additional power to deal with staff shortages. She plans to bring in members of the National Guard and medically trained retirees, or vaccinated workers from out of state, to fill in the gaps. The state will also convene a “Operations center” to shift resources to health facilities suffering from labor shortages, she said.
Healthcare workers can apply for a religious exemption, at least for now. On October 12, a federal judge will consider a court challenge arguing that such exemptions are constitutionally required.
Brittany Jane France, a nurse practitioner at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, has been granted a temporary religious exemption and therefore continues to work for the time being, but if a judge dismisses her, she would consider quitting her profession until something changes.
“I have worked very hard to get to where I am” said France, which believes it has natural immunity after a recent mild case of COVID-19. “But I’m also not willing to give up my personal freedoms because someone else thinks they know what’s best for me.”
Associated Press writers Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, Marina Villeneuve in Albany, New York, and Michelle L. Price in New York contributed. Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report from New York.
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press.