Vaccine Mandate Starts Today for Hospitals, Nursing Homes

Situation Report | September 27, 2021 

Governor Hochul says she will replace lost staff through foreign worker migration, use of out of state workers and military assets 

Today, September 27, marks the due date for mandatory vaccination of hospital and nursing home personnel, who under the emergency state regulation are required have had at least the first dose of vaccine by this date. Barring any other action today by the state or the courts, today’s due date is effective for the hospital and nursing home workforce, and unvaccinated workers will not be permitted to retain their positions. Under the line drawn in the regulation, they must either resign or be terminated. 

Responding to hospitals and nursing homes facing loss of substantial numbers of workers choosing to leave their positions rather than vaccinating, Governor Hochul has held firm in her position to go forward without revision to the terms of the mandate. On Saturday, she announced a plan whereby she intends to replace lost staff by recruiting foreign and out of state workers and utilizing military assets. 

The Governor’s plan includes: 

  • Preparation of a state of emergency declaration to supplement workforce supply at health care facilities; 
  • Enabling qualified health care professionals licensed in other states or countries, recent graduates, retired and formerly practicing health care professionals to practice in New York; 
  • Deployment of medically-trained National Guard; 
  • Requesting Federal disaster medical assistance teams (DMATs); 
  • Working with the Federal Government to expedite Visa requests for Medical Professionals;  
  • And other. 

The Department of Labor has issued guidance clarifying that workers who are terminated because of refusal to be vaccinated are not eligible for unemployment insurance absent a valid doctor-approved request for medical accommodation. 

HCA will keep the membership closely apprised of the developments in the hospital and nursing home sectors. 

Meanwhile, HCA continues to urge the Governor and state Department of Health (DOH) to consider the unique needs and supports of home care in the lead-up to October 7, which is the current date by which the regulations will require home care and hospice workers to be have received at least a first vaccination shot. 

HCA has requested engagement from the Executive on where the state stands on these considerations since the August 26 Public Health and Health Planning Council adoption of the regulations, during which, HCA outlined such needs, and where Council members also echoed many of HCA’s issues.

To date, DOH has kept silent, and the Governor has doubled-down in her position on the mandate, the dates on which the mandates apply and the absence of any other consideration in implementation. 

Even as the state initiates the mandate on hospitals and nursing homes today, HCA continues to seek a meeting with the Governor’s office today to brief her Cabinet on the issues, including the results from HCA’s statewide provider survey depicting vaccination rates as well as projections of departures of those who chose to remain unvaccinated. The survey results portend dire impact to patient services. 

Of a sample of 189 respondents that is both geographically and organizationally representative of the state, nearly 900 registered nurses were projected by providers as anticipated to resign or be terminated, along with nearly 10,500 Home Health Aides/Personal Care Aides, over 700 in administrative staff and additional losses in therapists/licensed professionals. 

If these results for the 189 sample hold, and if extrapolated as a straight-line projection to the statewide provider community, the numbers would be exponentially beyond those reported in the sample by several factors, impacting thousands of workers and patient service capability. 

HCA anticipates further developments throughout the day, and will keep the membership closely apprised of the Governor’s, Department’s and related actions as the situation further evolves.