Hochul prepares for health care staff shortage as COVID vaccine mandate looms


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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) – Governor Kathy Hochul is prepared to declare a state of emergency and deploy workforce supply to address potential staffing shortages caused by the looming COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers on Monday.

The plan, released on Saturday includes allowing qualified healthcare professionals licensed in other states and countries to practice in New York State, as well as recent graduates and retirees. 

It would also deploy medically-trained National Guard members to facilities that need additional support. The Governor added that she is working with the federal government to deploy disaster medical assistance teams if necessary and working to expedite visa requests for medical professionals. 

The Department of Health also clarified that workers who are fired because of their refusal to get vaccination will not qualify for unemployment insurance. The only exception is if the person has a valid doctor-approved request for medical accommodation.

Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse is already planning for a reduction in staffing come Monday by cutting their operating rooms down from 35 to just 13 and pausing elective surgeries, a decision Upstate’s Dr. Jeffrey Schaffel said will only hurt the patients. 

“I think most importantly it’s how it affects the patients that’s our primary concern is that we care about our patients and we want them to have their procedures that they need done and we just feel that this is a very bad way to go about forcing this vaccination mandate, the patients are going to suffer and that’s our major concern,”

Dr. Jeffrey Schaffel, Upstate University Hospital

The vaccine mandate has the potential of leaving thousands of health care workers without a job on Monday. As of Wednesday, 84% of hospital workers were fully vaccinated, according to the governor’s office. Additionally, 81% of staff at adult-care facilities and 77% of nursing home staff were fully vaccinated as of Thursday. 

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