With President Biden’s federal vaccine mandate set to take effect on Monday, health-care systems around the country are suspending elective in-patient surgeries and refusing to accept ICU patients from other hospitals as they brace for potentially hundreds of firings of nurses and other critical staffers, potentially even doctors.
According to the NYT, the Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo is planning to do all that and more, as it says it may soon fire about 400 employees who have chosen not to get the single job required by the edict (which was pushed through despite being blocked by a federal judge).
Similarly, officials at Northwell Health, the state’s largest health-care provider, estimate that NWH might be forced to fire thousands of people who have refused to get vaccinated.
In an economy with more job openings than workers – 2.2MM more, to be exact – forcing workers to choose between employment and their health or religious compunctions simply isn’t a smart idea.
Without even a hint of self-awareness, the governor apparently agrees: “What is looming for Monday is completely avoidable, and there’s no excuses,” Ms. Hochul said, pleading for those who have not done so to get vaccinated,” Hochul said during a weekend press briefing.
But we digress.
The situation is less dire in NYC, but there will still be plenty of hospitals left with massive staffing holes after mass-firings.
The city’s largest private hospital network, NewYork-Presbyterian, has more than 200 employees who may face termination because they haven’t received at least one jab.
Of course, as we have pointed out in recent posts, health-care workers are only a fraction of the worker who will be impacted by shortages across the economy. In California, nurse shortages have reached crisis levels in California, airlines are seeing flights frequently cancelled due to worker shortages.
As of late September, 16% of NY’s 450,000 hospital workers and 83% of nursing home workers – which number around 45,400 – remained unvaccinated.
Despite being directly threatened by their superiors, most say they’re refusing the jab on religious or health grounds, or because they’re allergic to certain ingredients.
In an effort to scare workers into compliance, NY Gov. Kathy Hochul has threatened to find “foreign workers” to staff the Empire state’s hospitals and care homes (despite the fact that vaccination rates are much lower in most of the world outside the US).
She has also threatened to call in the National Guard or order a state of emergency in a plan unveiled over the weekend.
NY’s teachers are also facing a mandate to either get vaccinated or kiss their jobs goodbye. Roughly 10,000 public school workers, that’s compared to 75K teachers and tens of thousands of other employees from custodians to paraprofessioanls.
Circling back to hospitals and care homes, institutions like Northwell are being relatively parsimonious with their exemptions for religious and health reasons, But some are getting through .
NY’s emergency order doesn’t stipulate how exactly hospitals and nursing homes should enforce it, and there’s a good chance that hospitals serving communities in greater need will be forced to make exceptions. Black and Hispanic New Yorkers have gotten the jab in far lower numbers than white new Yorkers. The NYT points out in its story that some hospitals in the Bronx see unvaccinated rates among doctors and nurses reaching into double-digit territory.
At St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, about 12 percent of the nearly 3,000 employees had not been vaccinated as of midday on Friday, the chief medical officer, Eric Appelbaum, said in an interview. The group includes roughly 3 important doctors, and plenty of badly eed studiws
Anecdotally hospitals are reporting a surge in vaccinations among hospital workers who haven’t yet been vaccinated. But who knows what to believe. All we know is that we wouldn’t want to be having an elective surgery or delivering a baby in NY right now.