New York hospitals in limbo as vaccine litigation winds through the courts

New York hospital executives are in a wait-and-see mode over the state's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers after a state Supreme Court judge struck it down.

The mandate was enacted in 2021. Rich Duvall, CEO of Carthage (N.Y.) Area Hospital and Ogdensburg, N.Y.-based Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center, told CBS affiliate WWNY-TV he continues to see implications of the mandate.

"It's incredibly hard to recruit, and we have had both nurses and physicians who were interested in joining our practices, who were unable to because of the vaccine mandate," Mr. Duvall said, according to the news station.

State Supreme Court Judge Gerard Neri wrote in a Jan. 13 ruling that Gov. Kathy Hochul and the New York State Department of Health overstepped their authority by making the requirement permanent because the COVID-19 vaccine is not included in the state's public health law, according to

"The mandate is beyond the scope of respondents' authority and is therefore null, void and of no effect," he wrote, according to

Mr. Neri's decision sides with the Medical Professionals for Informed Consent, a group of medical workers who filed a lawsuit against the state related to the mandate. 

Now, state officials have filed a notice of appeal in the case. 

"The requirement that healthcare workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 protects vulnerable New Yorkers and the people who care for them, and it is a critical public health tool," according to a department of health response on behalf of the governor's office, shared with Becker's. "The State Health Department strongly disagrees with the judge's decision and has filed a notice of appeal and a motion to stay the underlying injunction. As this is ongoing litigation, we will not comment further."

Meanwhile, the injunction placed by the Onondaga County Supreme Court is still in effect, as is the federal CMS rule requiring healthcare worker vaccination.

"Even if the state overturns [the mandate], it's going to put hospitals in a very difficult decision as to whether we follow [federal] rules, or what do we do to move forward," Mr. Duvall said, according to WWNY-TV.

In January, Olean, N.Y.-based Upper Allegheny Health System told Becker's it is aware of the judge's ruling and the mandate case.

"Regardless of the outcome, we believe vaccination is a powerful tool in lowering the disease burden for our workforce as well as our patients," the health system said.

In January, a spokesperson for Buffalo, N.Y.-based Erie County Medical Center told Becker's: "Given the state has filed a notice of appeal, we'll refrain from comment."

On Feb. 8, a spokesperson for Buffalo, N.Y.-based Catholic Health told Becker's: "We are still status quo" until the appeal is heard. 

In January, a spokesperson for New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based Northwell Health told Becker's the health system will continue to require compliance with its existing vaccination requirements, including CMS' vaccine requirement, and will monitor the status of the state health department's appeal.  

"As healthcare professionals and members of the largest healthcare provider in New York, we have a unique responsibility to protect the health and safety of our staff, our patients and the communities we serve and we believe that vaccination remains a critical layer of protection in raising the health of the communities in our care," the spokesperson said.




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