New York State’s vaccination requirement for healthcare workers is one of the most important mandates of its kind expected to go into effect in the United States, with weekly virus testing not allowed as surrogate measure. How this plays out – and whether it leaves hospitals understaffed – will be closely watched. California requires healthcare workers there to be fully immunized by September 30, and a similar mandate in Maine will not go into effect until October 29. New York’s willingness to risk large-scale layoffs of healthcare workers comes amid a nationwide shortage of nurses, and the demand faces numerous legal challenges.
“We give patients a bill of rights, and they are able to choose which procedures, tests or drugs they want to put in their system,” said Gregory Serafin, RN at Erie County Medical Center. , and the principal plaintiff in a New York lawsuit seeking to stop the warrant. “Healthcare workers deserve the same medical autonomy to make these decisions. “
Depending on the number of laid-off healthcare workers, the policy could also test the resilience of New York’s healthcare system. Hospitals statewide are activating emergency staffing plans which they typically reserve for natural disasters or, more recently, sudden spikes in Covid-19 cases. Volunteers, students and retirees will fill vacancies, as well as itinerant nurses.
Northwell, with 77,000 employees, believes it can overcome any loss of employees without impacting patient care. Erie County Medical Center is not so secure.
As of Monday, the hospital had 553 inpatients, its busiest day on record. One of the main reasons the hospital is so crowded is that it cannot send as many patients as usual to nursing or group homes as they also limit admissions in anticipation of their own shortage. staff due to the vaccination mandate.
“This is creating an unprecedented crisis for us,” said Tom Quatroche, president of the Erie County Medical Center Corporation. “I think we need more time to comply, and I asked for it. For all the right reasons, the vaccination mandate has been put in place. But the reality is it is creating a public health crisis in hospitals, with no one to treat patients. “
In New York City, more than 5,000 of the 42,000 employees of the public hospital system were not vaccinated as of Friday. They will be excluded from hospitals from Monday and other healthcare facilities from October 7, and they will be put on unpaid leave.