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Vaccine Mandate Could Mean Mass Firings At NY Hospitals

Workers still refuse jabs as Monday deadline looms
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 26, 2021 6:15 AM CDT
Vaccine Mandate Could Mean Mass Firings At NY Hospitals
Medical personnel adjust their personal protective equipment while working in New York   (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

(Newser) – A Monday deadline is looming for New York hospital workers to be vaccinated for COVID-19, causing some hospitals in the state to worry mass firings are on the horizon as some continue to refuse to get the shots. Per the New York Times, a serious example of these fears can be seen in Buffalo, where the Erie County Medical Center says it plans to suspend elective surgeries, and take other drastic steps, because 400 of its employees have not been vaccinated and will be fired next week. “We would like to see some more time to be able to comply and implement the vaccine mandate, because at the end of the day it’s a situation where we’re very concerned about our ability to care for the patients,” Tom Quatroche, CEO of the Erie County Medical Center Corporation, which operates the busy 573-bed hospital in Buffalo, told the AP.

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Under its contingency plan, the hospital said it would temporarily stop accepting ICU transfers from other institutions and reduce hours at clinics. New York is not the only state to require health care workers to get vaccinated. But it has been especially aggressive in pushing for wider vaccinations to help limit the spread of the virus. Hospital in New York City are facing the issue, as well. Per the Times, the city's largest private hospital network, New York-Presbyterian, says only around 200 of its 48,000 employees have still refused to be vaccinated. The mandate for health care workers comes as hospitals are already reeling from staff shortages due in part to rising demand, workers retiring and weary employees seeking other jobs after 18 months of the pandemic. There is one option for health care workers who don't want to get the shot: religious exemption.

That would buy them until at least Oct. 12, while a federal judge considers a legal challenge arguing that such exemptions are constitutionally required. Meanwhile, a state judge in Albany agreed to set aside a Monday deadline for court employees to get a first vaccine shot and would hear arguments next week on whether to extend the stay. The CSEA, which represents 5,800 workers, argued that the mandate should have been negotiated and not imposed unilaterally by the court system. Earlier, another judge threw out a last-minute effort Friday by seven health care workers and Republican Niagara County legislator John Syracuse to delay the health care mandate. With time ticking down on the health care mandate, Northwell Health was trying to persuade thousands of holdouts to get vaccinated, including individual meetings with staffers.

The system’s personnel chief, Maxine Carrington, said they're seeing a lot more appointments being scheduled. “I’ve had personal conversations with team members, and I was asked by one: ‘Are you really going to fire us on the 27th?’ And I said, let’s put that aside for a minute and let’s talk about saving your life. Why don’t you want to get vaccinated?” Carrington said. She said staff that refuse the inoculations will "no longer be qualified for employment.” As of Thursday, about 90% of Northwell's 74,000 active personnel had been vaccinated. Still, the hospital system acknowledged that it did not expect full compliance and had more than 3,000 retirees, volunteers and health care students on standby, should they be needed.

(Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)

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