Plan includes preparation of state of emergency declaration to supplement workforce supply at health care facilities
√ Would enable qualified health care professionals licensed in other states or countries, recent graduates, retired and formerly practicing health care professionals to practice in New York
√ Other options include deployment of medically trained National Guard, requesting federal disaster medical assistance teams, working with the federal government to expedite visa requests for medical professionals
√ Governor holds firm on ensuring health care workers are vaccinated to protect public Health
In preparation for Monday's vaccination deadline, Gov. Kathy Hochul released what her team called “a comprehensive plan to address preventable staffing shortages in hospitals and other health care facilities statewide.”
Hochul said, "We are still in a battle against COVID to protect our loved ones, and we need to fight with every tool at our disposal. 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."
The plan includes preparing to sign an executive order if necessary to declare a state of emergency that seeks to increase workforce supply and allow qualified health care professionals licensed in other states or countries, recent graduates, retired and formerly practicing health care professionals to practice in New York.
The Department of Labor has issued guidance to clarify 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 deployment of 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. Additionally, Hochul plans to work with the federal government and other state leaders to explore ways to expedite visa requests for medical professionals.
As of Sept. 22, 84% of all hospital employees in New York were fully vaccinated. As of Sept. 23, 81% of staff at all adult care facilities and 77% of all staff at nursing home facilities in New York were fully vaccinated.
According to the regulation issued by the State Department of Health, all health care workers in New York, at hospitals and nursing homes, are to be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the first dose received by Monday, Sept. 27, and staff at other covered entities including home care, hospice and adult care facilities are to be vaccinated by Oct. 7. The regulation also applies to all out-of-state and contract medical staff who practice in New York.
Executive Director of New York State Nurses Association Pat Kane said, “As nurses, we are committed to providing the best care for our patients and working with the governor on these efforts. We need adequate staffing to protect our patients and our colleagues, and we want to do everything we can to avoid returning to crisis levels during the pandemic. We are grateful to Gov. Hochul for her leadership and for her bold and strategic plan to support nurses, patients, and ensuring the best possible care.”
Frederick E. Kowal, Ph.D., president of United University Professions, said, "UUP will continue to fight for adequate funding and staffing at the SUNY Hospitals and is dedicated to protecting the health and safety of our members and their patients. We understand the step that Gov. Hochul is taking in light of the potential staff shortage. We remain hopeful that this step will not be necessary. We continue to urgently call on all UUP members and all New Yorkers to get vaccinated immediately.”
On Friday, Catholic Health released the following statement regarding the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate:
“Catholic Health supports Gov. Hochul’s decision to move ahead with the New York state COVID-19 vaccine mandate at this critical time. It has been proven through science and data that the best way to end the COVID-19 pandemic is through vaccinations and masking.
“Currently, however, the mandate does not provide for religious exemptions – a matter that is facing numerous legal challenges in federal courts across the state. As a result, the state’s ability to enforce the vaccine mandate in its present form after Sept. 27, 2021 is temporarily on hold until at least Oct. 12, 2021, or when the courts decide if the state has the right to preclude religious exemptions.
“Since Catholic Health cannot evaluate requests for exemptions based on sincerely held religious beliefs until the courts make their final rulings, associates who request a religious exemption will be permitted to work until the courts decide whether health care providers can assess requests for religious accommodations.
“Any unvaccinated Catholic Health associate who has not received a medical exemption or requested a religious exemption prior to 9 p.m. on Sept. 26, 2021, will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence beginning on Sept. 27, 2021, for a period of 30 days, after which time they will be subject to termination unless they meet the requirements of the mandate.
“In addition to making the vaccine available to all associates, Catholic Health will continue to follow all proven safety measures to protect patients and staff, including universal masking and all needed personal protective equipment, social distancing, frequent handwashing, and hospital-grade cleaning and disinfection practices.
“Currently, 83% of Catholic Health’s associates are in compliance with the vaccine mandate. The health system is offering vaccines throughout the weekend and will be assessing whether any nonemergency services will be impacted after Sept. 27.”