Can students fill available healthcare positions? Experts say it is not a short term solution

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(WETM) – If the statewide healthcare worker vaccine mandate stands, a new fear is emerging among industry professionals: lack of experienced employees. There has been a decline in nurses, doctors, specialty positions, and other healthcare jobs amid COVID-19. Now, healthcare students could be asked to fill the gap.

“It’s unfortunate that we’re going to see healthcare workers leave,” Dr. Richard Terry, associate dean of academic affairs at LECOM at Elmira, said.

A federal judge temporarily blocked the state of New York on Tuesday from forcing medical workers to be vaccinated after a group of healthcare workers sued, saying their Constitutional rights were violated because the state’s mandate disallowed religious exemptions.

While LECOM’s enrollment has increased this year, one expert warns that students’ lack of experience will only exacerbate the problem.

“When we lose experienced physicians or nurses who are leaving because they won’t get vaccinated, that’s an enormous gap. Make no mistake that will have a very deleterious effect on health care, healthcare delivery, and staffing,” Dr. Terry told 18 News Tuesday.

County officials say they are worried they will not be able to operate their healthcare facilities, like nursing homes and county clinics, because of a lack of workers due to the potential mandate.

“How are we gonna operate the nursing facility if we have to do that to the folks? We have the health department. How are we going to operate the health department?” Christopher Moss, Chemung County Executive, continued.

As the vaccine mandate plays out in court, many remain concerned that if the mandate stands, hundreds of healthcare workers could lose their jobs, putting a strain on the state and local system. The State has until next week to respond to the lawsuit. Meanwhile, New York State and the Governor’s office were sent a letter by eight counties, including Steuben and Schuyler counties, asking for officials to reconsider the September 27 deadline.

“A letter was sent… expressing our concern around this and advocating to allow for a testing option,” Darlene Smith, Steuben County Public Health director, added.

Counties, healthcare workers, and New York State residents await the final decision on the mandate as September 27 nears closer.

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