Hospitals managing new NYS COVID vaccine mandate on first day

Coronavirus

BOROUGH PARK, Brooklyn — Tuesday was the first day that healthcare workers across New York were required to either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or lose their jobs.  

A wide variety of hospitals and other health care facilities had to release workers who refused to get vaccinated from their payrolls. It was a challenge for many facilities, but it seemed surmountable, according to the latest figures provided by the facilities.

Dr. John Marshall is the chair of emergency medicine at Maimonides Medical Center. He said that on Tuesday, the hospital was without some staff who’d chosen not to get vaccinated.  

“Of the thousands of employees we have here,” he said in an interview, “we had only 40 employees for that job that we had to let go.  That’s only about one-half of one percent.” 

There were similar results at some of the largest health care systems in the New York City metro area and the state.

“Northwell Health today notified all unvaccinated team members that they are no longer in compliance with New York State’s mandate,” the healthcare system said in part, in a statement confirming that some staff had been let go.

“As health care professionals and members of the largest health care provider in the state,” the statement continued, “we understand our unique responsibility to protect the health of our patients and each other.”

At St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, dozens of employees are on the clock: suspensions that began Tuesday for unvaccinated workers will turn into terminations by Monday, the hospital said.

New York-Presbyterian, another major healthcare provider, issued a statement that read, in part, “Of our 48,000 team members (37,000 employees and 11,000 affiliated doctors), more than 99% have complied with our vaccination program. Fewer than 250 chose not to comply and no longer work at NewYork-Presbyterian as of Sept.r 23.”

New-York Presbyterian pointed out that it had imposed it’s own vaccine mandate last week. Since then, including on Tuesday, it hasn’t reported significant staff shortages.

That was also the case for the 11 hospitals that the city operates. 

They’re called the NYC Health + Hospitals system. Its CEO, Dr. Mitchell Katz, reported a 98% vaccination rate among doctors in the system, and a 95% rate among nurses.

Still, he said at the mayor’s daily news conference on Tuesday, “I did bring 500 nurses to Health + Hospitals to deal with the fact that I have about 500 nurses who are not currently at work. So, we anticipated that there would be some loss of staff.”

That number represents about 1% of the 40,000 people who work in the city system. It’s evidence that vaccination rates are high in the city’s hospitals.

However, on some of the city’s streets, it’s not quite the same.

The city’s latest vaccination rate map, released on Tuesday morning, showed varying levels of vaccination in different zip codes, from a 99% rate in the 11355 zip code in Flushing/Murray Hill in Queens, to a 46% rate in Borough Park, Brooklyn.

Maimonides serves Borough Park, and its emergency medicine chair said that while there’s a sharp contrast between his medical center’s staff being totally vaccinated essentially and the community surrounding the hospital not being nearly as protected from COVID, it can lead to a positive outcome.

“Having the doctors and nurses raise their hands…so we can take care of you,” Dr. Marshall said, “I think that’s a great model.”

He also said that the situation put in place by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s order could be a prototype for other workplaces.

Jay Dow contributed.

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