New York’s largest healthcare provider is the first hospital to announce it is firing employees for refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before the state’s deadline on Monday.
Northwell Health announced it had fired about two dozen “unvaccinated leaders” at management level or above from about 74,000 employees.
With just 84 percent of New York’s 450,000 hospital workers who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, that means another 72,000 hospital workers could be suspended or fired for refusing to be vaccinated, according to state data.
Northwell Health (pictured) became the first New York hospital system to announce it had laid off workers — about two dozen of its 74,000 — when the state’s vaccine mandate went into effect on Monday.
Severe shortages are expected and hospital administrators have contingency plans in place, including cutting back on non-critical services and limiting admissions to nursing homes.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said this weekend she was willing to bring in medically trained National Guard members and retirees, or out-of-state vaccinated workers, to fill in any gaps.
The governor has stuck to the mandate despite pleas to delay it and multiple lawsuits challenging its constitutionality.
The mandate for health professionals was issued in August by former Governor Andrew Cuomo and backed by Hochul when she succeeded him.
All New York state health workers in hospitals and nursing homes were required to receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Monday.
Workers who refuse the shots will be suspended and fired.
Government Kathy Hochul is considering sending the National Guard to hospitals or signing an executive order allowing graduates and retirees to work to solve staff shortages. Pictured: Hochul speaking after meeting Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin, September 2021
The rules apply not only to people such as doctors and nurses, but also to others who work in healthcare facilities, including hospitality workers, administrators and even cleaners.
Northwell said in a statement it contacted a “few hundred” employees last week to remind them of Monday’s approaching deadline.
“We are now beginning the process to leave the rest of our unvaccinated staff,” the statement read.
Northwell would like to reassure the public that there will be no impact on the quality of patient care at any of our facilities during this time. We are proud that our workforce is already nearly 100 percent vaccinated.’
The state’s Department of Labor has issued guidelines that workers fired for refusing to vaccinate are ineligible for unemployment insurance “in the absence of a valid, doctor-approved request for medical accommodation.”
In addition to hospital workers, long-term care facility staff has until October 7 to receive at least one dose.
On Monday, 89 percent of the 145,000 did so, meaning 16,000 are currently at risk of being terminated.
But thousands of health professionals say they’d rather be fired than get the vaccine.
One of them is Deborah Conrad, a physician assistant at United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia – a small town between Buffalo and Rochester.
Conrad told The New York Times that she’s seen people report side effects from getting the COVID-19 vaccine that kept her from getting the shot.
“We were all traumatized, vaccinated and unvaccinated,” she said.
‘It is very difficult that the same’ [colleagues] those who have raised me to this level now see me as a dangerous person.’