Situation Report | October 4, 2021
Media blitz to educate the public, state officials about impact, need for modification
HCA met with senior health officials for Governor Hochul and the State Department of Health (DOH) Friday evening to present our members’ projected impact on home care workers and patients of the Governor’s October 7 vaccine mandate, and to reassert our urgent recommendations for our sector.
From the time that the emergency mandate regulations appeared, HCA has been emphatically stressing to the Executive the statewide emergency level shortage in the home care workforce, and the vaccine mandate’s implications for major service loss from DOH’s approach to implementation. HCA has been strenuously advocating adjustments that would assist home compliance, avoid jeopardization of service and provide proactive financial and policy support to agencies.
In Friday’s meeting, HCA President and CEO, Al Cardillo, presented to state officials critical data and staff-loss projections from HCA’s home care and hospice agency vaccination survey. Mr. Cardillo responded to questions and offered supportive pathways for the industry and the Executive to meet mutual goals.
Mr. Cardillo reiterated HCA’s steadfast support for the Governor’s public health goals through vaccination, and reminded officials of HCA’s immediate efforts to promote systemwide vaccination in home care upon the vaccine’s first availability last December. He focused the discussion on the crisis being created by the Administration’s approach to the implementation of the mandate, which is for home are workers to be vaccinated by October 7 or be removed from employment, and thus from service to patients. He said that this approach creates a cliff that will abruptly eliminate major levels of service from the system.
He instead proposed a “phase-up” method for vaccination that would avoid such a crisis in home care, and also called for substantive supports to assist home care in this effort, including: emergency provider funding; reinstatement of procedural waivers and efficiencies that had been helpful earlier in the pandemic; suspension and withdrawal of new mandates that would further drain staff and operations, such as the Independent Assessor and Request for Offers on Licensed Agencies; application of the mandate to service areas that were left out of the regulations and that will incent worker migration from home care and hospice to avoid the mandate; and other.
He challenged the Executive’s assumption that staffing losses from its “vax or be fired” policy could be ameliorated with foreign worker recruits, out-of-state workers and military assets, stressing the unrealistic and unviable nature of these alternatives for home care patients. He demonstrated how the sheer numbers of potential staff losses, along with the specialized skill sets to work in home care, and patient unique relationships with their existing in-home caregivers, made the Administration’s “replacement worker options” wholly unviable.
Cardillo stressed that the Executive’s approach to the mandate, which carries a blunt October 7 vaccinate or be fired parameter, risks a calamity for vulnerable individuals, as well as severe agency and communitywide health system destabilization. He further cited the unacceptability of state government treatment of health care workers in this manner who “just yesterday” were messaged as heroes for their sacrifices and personal risks throughout the pandemic.
HCA is following up today with additional material for the Administration’s consideration as the state’s October 7 date looms. Over the weekend, HCA Vice President Andrew Koski and Executive Vice President Rebecca Fuller Gray penned a critical advisory to all members with guidance to assist in preparing emergency plans should the October 7 date arrive without modification of the state’s vaccination mandate rollout.
As October 7 nears, every agency must continue doing all that it can to encourage vaccination for all staff, which is the legal state requirement unless the state modifies its approach before then, or a court acts to restrain it. We ask that you keep HCA closely apprised of your situation.
As the situation continues to be fluid and urgent, HCA will continue providing updates and guidance to assist member organizations in every way possible.