Members of the New York National Guard could be thrown into the breach once Monday’s health care worker vaccination deadline passes.
Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul said she is ready to declare a state of emergency in hospitals as a way to ensure that enough vaccinated workers can address critical needs, according to a release posted on the state’s website.
National Guard members with medical training could be deployed to hospitals that face shortages due to a large number of staff members who refuse to adhere to the state’s order to have at least one shot of a vaccine by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Hochul said.
The option of working with the federal government’s Disaster Medical Assistance Teams is also under consideration.
Hochul also indicated that she’s willing to sign an executive order that would radically alter the dynamics of who is allowed to work in health care in highly regulated New York, opening up jobs to anyone who has a license in another state, or even another country.
Bringing health care workers out of retirement is also part of Hochul’s plan.
As of last week, 84 percent of the state’s hospital workers were vaccinated.
The state’s vaccine mandate requires that everyone working in home care, hospice care and adult care facilities must be vaccinated by Oc. 7.
“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 said in the release. “I am monitoring the staffing situation closely, and we have a plan to increase our health care workforce and help alleviate the burdens on our hospitals and other health care facilities.”
In the release, Hochul stressed that without a doctor-approved request for medical accommodation, health care workers who are let go for not being vaccinated will be unable to claim unemployment benefits.
New York’s vaccine mandate does not provide for religious exemptions to the vaccine.
Eileen Toback, executive director of the New York Professional Nurses Union, which supports the mandate, indicated that the plan might be coming too late, according to a report published by The New York Times on Saturday.
“That could be devastating, particularly when hospitals staff only the exact numbers they need,” Toback said. “There’s no fat on that bone.”
Toback said some health care workers are willing to risk their jobs, believing the state will blink.
“I believe a lot of unvaccinated employees, not just nurses, are banking on the fact that they are so necessary that they won’t be terminated, and they are holding out,” she said.
But some say they will not bend because a principle is involved.
“We give patients a Bill of Rights, and they are able to choose what procedures or tests or medications they want to put in their system,” said Gregory Serafin, a nurse at Erie County Medical Center, and among those suing the state to block the mandate, according to a report in the Times on Friday.
“Health care workers deserve the same medical autonomy to make those decisions.”
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