New York Governor Expands Eligibility of Health Care Workers as Hospitals Suspend and Dismiss unvaccinated Staff
Last night, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed an executive order expanding the eligibility requirements for healthcare workers, an effort to avoid potential staff shortages fueled by the new COVID-19 vaccination requirements of the ‘State.
The six-page order (PDF) allows out-of-state and nation-wide healthcare workers to practice in New York City and lowers the barrier for those who have retired or are behind on registrations to join medical staff at during a “statewide disaster emergency.” “
It also includes provisions allowing recent graduates and emergency medical technicians to intervene temporarily in other health establishments; makes it easier for various types of healthcare workers to administer and order COVID-19 vaccines; allows telemedicine physician visits to nursing homes; allows facilities to offload, transfer or receive patients more quickly; suspends the pre-authorization examination for scheduled surgeries; and includes several other allowances designed to reduce labor-related barriers to caregiving.
“The only way to overcome this pandemic is to make sure that all eligible people are vaccinated, and that includes those who care for vulnerable members of our family and loved ones,” Hochul said in a statement.
“On Saturday I released a comprehensive plan ahead of the vaccination mandate deadline that keeps New Yorkers safe, and tonight I’m adding even more provisions to take bold action to alleviate potential staff shortages. To monitor developments in the field, I am also leading a 24 hour operations center to assist local partners and resolve personnel issues in real time, ”she said.
The governor’s office said it was monitoring staffing levels to determine whether a National Guard deployment would be necessary.
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Hochul plans to work with federal and state leaders to expedite visa applications for international medical workers, according to Monday night’s announcement. She told a press conference last week that such a move is unlikely to happen in the short term.
Although many hospitals and health systems across the country have faced a shortage of nurses and other health professionals, New York’s workforce challenges were exacerbated yesterday when a statewide COVID-19 vaccination mandate went into effect for workers in hospitals and nursing homes.
Citing preliminary data, the Hochul office said on Monday that 92% of the state’s hospital staff had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Seventy-seven percent were fully immunized before the August 15 announcement of the immunization mandate, rising to 84 percent on September 22.
The percentage of nursing home staff who had received at least one dose of the vaccine rose from 70% on August 15 to 92% on Monday. Single-dose vaccination rates for staff in adult care facilities increased from 76% to 89% over the same period.
Suspensions, resignations and layoffs resulting from the state mandate and similar demands by individual organizations have put more pressure on some facilities than others.
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Office of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said yesterday that about 5,000 health workers in the city’s public hospitals missed the deadline, or about 10% of its total workforce. The administration noted that these departures had not resulted in any reduction in services and hoped that many suspended workers would choose to be vaccinated and return to their jobs later this week.
NewYork-Presbyterian had “less than 250” team members who did not comply with a September 22 vaccination mandate and “no longer work” in the organization, according to a statement provided to Fierce Healthcare. The system said it has achieved over 99% compliance among its 48,000 employees and affiliated physicians and will see no disruption of care due to the mandate.
Erie County Medical Center is said to have fired about 400 staff who did not comply. These employees represent around 5% of its total workforce and have forced the hospital to stop elective surgeries in hospitals and reduce other services.
On Tuesday, the American Medical Association and the New York State Medical Society released a joint statement expressing “strong support” for the vaccination requirement for health care providers.
“The path to ending the pandemic must be based on science, and immunization is an indispensable part of the solution,” the groups wrote in the statement. “We will continue to work with Governor Hochul and his administration to help promote immunization for all as the key to ending this pandemic. ”
The New York tenure is sort of a testing ground for other states like California or Maine that have announced full vaccination requirements among healthcare workers. These ordinances will come into force on September 30 and October 1, respectively.
Many states and healthcare providers have been reluctant to introduce COVID-19 vaccination requirements to all healthcare workers, citing concerns ranging from individual choice to dangerous staff shortages. At the federal level, Biden’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have announced plans to make worker immunizations a condition for participating in Medicare and Medicaid.