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New York hospitals face staff shortages as vaccine mandate kicks in By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO. A paramedic lies on his back bumper in an ambulance during the coronavirus (19COVID-19), pandemic that struck Manhattan, New York City. This was December 4, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

By Maria Caspani and Nathan Layne

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York hospitals were preparing to fire thousands of healthcare workers for not complying with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate taking effect on Monday, with some in the upstate region curtailing services to cope with staffing shortages.

According to a spokesperson, the Erie County Medical Center (ECMC), Buffalo, has suspended elective surgeries and refused intensive-care patients from any other hospitals. This is in preparation for firing hundreds of unvaccinated staff.

Catholic Health in Western New York is one of the biggest healthcare providers. It had previously said that it would delay some elective surgery on Monday while it increases its vaccination rate. This was at 90% as of Sunday afternoon.

Peter Cutler of ECMC stated that the hospital would have to cut back on some operations. Elective Inpatient Surgery costs the hospital about $1million per week.

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Cutler stated, “We needed to decide where we could make temporary changes to ensure that other services were not affected.” It’s an important financial decision.

New York’s State Health Department issued an order in September mandating all healthcare workers get at least one COVID-19 shot. It prompted hospitals to rush to ensure that as many staff as possible were vaccinated.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced Saturday that she had considered employing out-of-state and National Guard medical staff to address possible staffing shortages. 16% state staff are not yet fully vaccinated.

This inoculation drive comes amid an ongoing battle between federal and state leaders who want to enforce vaccine mandates.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio stated Monday that the mandate had not had any major impact on hospitals within the city, although he expressed concern about the situation in other parts of the state.

At the press conference, Dr. Mitchell Katz from NYC Health + Hospitals stated that about 5,000 employees were still not vaccinated among the 43,000 employed at 11 city public hospitals.

Katz claimed that 95% were vaccinated while all facilities of NYC Health + Hospitals were functional and open on Monday.

Hochul stated that healthcare workers who refuse to be vaccinated are not eligible for unemployment insurance. However, they will still have the option to apply for medical accommodation if they present a doctor-approved request.

However, it was unclear how religious exemptions pending in court would affect the state’s plans. Albany federal judge temporarily ordered New York State officials to grant religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate that has been imposed on all healthcare workers by the state.

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