New York hospitals see workforce effects from state mandate: Results from 6 organizations

New York hospitals are seeing the effects on the workforce of the state's COVID-19 vaccine mandate as unvaccinated employees leave their jobs permanently or temporarily.

The state required healthcare workers at hospitals and nursing homes to receive their first vaccine dose by Sept. 27. Workers at other places 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.

While the state's vaccination rate among healthcare workers climbed ahead of the mandate deadline, some workers refused to comply.

Here are results from six hospitals and health systems:

Note: This is not an exhaustive list.

1. Malone, N.Y.-based Alice Hyde Medical Center, part of the University of Vermont Health Network, reported Sept. 28 that 16 employees had left the organization because of the state mandate.

2. Plattsburgh, N.Y.-based Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital, part of the University of Vermont Health Network, reported Sept. 28 that 12 employees were terminated. Additionally, 55 employees have left the hospital or reduced their hours voluntarily for various reasons since the mandate was announced on Aug. 16, according to hospital officials.

3. Elizabethtown (N.Y.) Community Hospital, part of the University of Vermont Health Network, reported Sept. 28 that two employees had resigned.

4. At Utica, N.Y.-based Mohawk Valley Health System, 180 employees were placed on unpaid leave because of the state mandate, Darlene Stromstad, president and CEO of the system, said in a Sept. 28 news release. She said this brings Mohawk Valley's vacancy rate to 17.5 percent, compared to 13.7 percent before the mandate. Unvaccinated workers have until Oct. 9 to return vaccinated to maintain their position and seniority. If they remain unvaccinated, they will be terminated.

5. Albany (N.Y.) Med CEO Dennis McKenna, MD, reported Sept. 28 that 204 out of more than 11,000 employees across the hospital system, including nurses and physicians, did not get vaccinated or obtain an exemption by the state mandate deadline, according to the Times Union. Dr. McKenna said the 204 employees were suspended without pay and face termination if they don't comply within seven days.

6. More than 320 unvaccinated workers at St. Peter's Health Partners, out of more than 11,000 total employees, were suspended, the Albany-based system reported Sept. 28, according to the Times Union. The unvaccinated employees have until Oct. 8 to comply.

Amid the workforce changes because of the mandate, hospitals and health systems have taken various steps to prepare. For example, the University of Vermont Health Network said Alice Hyde and Champlain Valley have recruited traveling nurses to fill scheduling gaps, and at Champlain Valley, all inpatient surgical procedures scheduled for this week have been postponed.

New York's governor has also taken steps to alleviate potential staffing shortages at hospitals, including signing an executive order to expand the eligible healthcare workforce and allow more healthcare workers to administer COVID-19 tests and shots.

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