New York hospitals, officials prepare for potential staff shortages ahead of vaccine mandate deadline

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Ahead of the effective date for New York state's COVID-19 vaccine mandate, state officials and hospitals are bracing for possible shortages of healthcare workers because of the requirement, The Washington Post reported Sept. 24.

The mandate requires healthcare workers at hospitals and nursing homes to receive their first vaccine dose by Sept. 27. Workers at additional entities covered by the mandate, including diagnostic and treatment centers, home health agencies, long-term home healthcare programs, school-based clinics and hospice care programs, must have at least one dose by Oct. 7.

But Gov. Kathy Hochul reported that only about 84 percent of the state's healthcare professionals were at least partially inoculated as of Sept. 23, according to The Washington Post.

With a number of healthcare workers still unvaccinated, the state is working on contingency plans to avoid potential staff shortages when the mandate takes effect.

"I'll be announcing a whole series of initiatives that we are doing to be prepared for a situation on Monday, which I hope doesn't happen," Ms. Hochul said at a press briefing Sept. 23.

Hospitals are preparing, too, as some have already lost workers because of the state's mandate.

In a Sept. 21 statement shared with Becker's, Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, N.Y., said it anticipates that approximately 10 percent of its workforce (about 400 staff) will not be vaccinated by Sept. 27.

The organization said its contingency planning for the anticipated vaccine mandate deadline includes opening its incident command center to monitor closely all hospital operations, suspend elective inpatient surgeries, temporarily declining intensive care unit transfers from other area institutions, and reducing hours at the medical center's outpatient clinics, so workers can support inpatient care at the main hospital.

The New York mandate is slated to take effect days after Judge David Hurd, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, extended a temporary restraining order on the state mandate for healthcare workers claiming religious exemption.

The order, which was granted Sept. 14 and extended to Oct. 12, freezes enforcement of the state mandate's prohibition of religious exemptions as part of a case brought by 17 medical workers against the state. It only applies to healthcare workers claiming religious exemptions.

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