New York weighs using the National Guard to replace unvaccinated health care workers.
Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York is considering calling in the National Guard and recruiting medical professionals from other states to cover looming staff shortages at hospitals and other facilities as the likelihood grows that tens of thousands of health care workers will not meet the state’s deadlines for mandated vaccinations.
In a statement released on Saturday, the governor’s office said Ms. Hochul was laying plans for an executive order to declare a state of emergency that would “allow qualified health care professionals licensed in other states or countries, recent graduates, retired and formerly practicing health care professionals to practice in New York State.”
Other options, the statement said, included calling in medically trained National Guard members to deliver care and to work with the federal government to deploy Disaster Medical Assistance Teams, which are operated by the Department for Health and Human Services.
New York State is one of the first major testing grounds for stronger vaccination edicts rolling in across the country in the health care sector. California and Maine have also set deadlines for health care workers to be vaccinated. President Biden has said his administration will issue a national vaccination mandate expected to ultimately affect some 17 million health care workers at hospitals and other institutions that accept Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.
Hospital and nursing home employees in New York are required to receive a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by 11:59 p.m. on Monday night, while workers working in home care, hospices and other adult care facilities must do so by Oct. 7, according to state regulations and a mandate issued on Aug. 16 by former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
State vaccination figures show that, as of Wednesday, 16 percent of the state’s roughly 450,000 hospital workers, or about 70,000, were not fully vaccinated. The data show that 15 percent of staff at skilled nursing facilities and 14 percent of workers at adult care facilities are also not fully vaccinated, representing another 25,000 or so workers.
The governor’s office said workers terminated because they refuse to be vaccinated are not eligible for unemployment insurance unless they provide a doctor-approved request for a medical accommodation.
In announcing New York’s determination to enforce its deadline, Ms. Hochul said, “We are still in a battle against Covid to protect our loved ones, and we need to fight with every tool at our disposal.” She also commended the vast majority of state health care workers for getting vaccinated and urged “all remaining health care workers who are unvaccinated to do so now so they can continue providing care.”
The Greater New York Hospital Association, which represents about 140 health systems and 55 nursing homes, had not issued a response to the governor’s plan but has supported the deadline for health care workers’ vaccinations, signaling that staffing shortages can be managed.
Michael A.L. Balboni, executive director of the Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association that represents about 80 nursing homes in the metropolitan area, applauded the governor’s effort to get more health care workers vaccinated but expressed concern about staffing shortages.
“This is a paradox, in that in trying to protect the residents and staff you don’t have enough people to provide the services and you could put people in jeopardy,” Mr. Balboni said.