New York’s vaccine mandate does not apply to all medical workers


ALBANY – Thousands of nurses and other medical staff who work in state agencies caring for inmates or the disabled and mentally ill will not be forced to get the coronavirus vaccine or lose their employment – which was a policy that went into effect earlier this week for healthcare professionals in hospitals and other healthcare settings.

The stricter mandate imposed on Monday applies to workers in hospitals, including public facilities that fall under the authority of the state health ministry or the state university system. It also extends to state-run schools of optometry and dentistry, nursing homes, and veterans facilities.

But a second term that is expected to take effect Oct. 12 will give all other state employees, including thousands of nurses and doctors from agencies controlled by leaders such as the Office of Mental Health and the Office for people with intellectual disabilities, the possibility of being tested. weekly for COVID-19 instead of being vaccinated. The Oct. 12 mandate will also apply to medical staff who work in patient care facilities in state prisons.

It’s still unclear how the tests will be performed and whether the state will pay the cost – around $ 75 per test – to potentially perform tens of thousands of tests per month. A spokesperson for the governor’s office of employee relations said the state “is in the process of finalizing the details of the testing process.”

The Federation of Public Employees represents more than 5,000 nurses who work in state management-controlled agencies that will allow these employees to be tested weekly rather than being vaccinated.

The governor’s office and the state’s health department did not respond to questions about why only one group of health professionals is mandated to get vaccinated.

New York Republican President Nick Langworthy, who attended a press conference Wednesday with unvaccinated nurses displaced from their jobs at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, said these workers are “treated differently from people working for staff of the governor “who are not must be vaccinated to keep their jobs. Langworthy said he strongly supports people getting vaccinated, but opposes firing anyone who refuses to be vaccinated.

Langworthy said he was unaware that thousands of nurses and other health care professionals in some state agencies would not be required to be vaccinated.

“I think the administration is using an intimidation tactic here,” he said. “And these public system workers are treated differently from these healthcare professionals in private and public hospitals. It is so insane at a time when we cannot afford it.… It defies logic why they are gonna be. forced out at a time when our job market is terrible… and here these people have been presented as heroes. ”

Pat Kayne, executive director of the New York State Nurses Association, said she was unaware of the rationale for the policy allowing nurses in some state health facilities to take weekly tests instead of getting vaccinated. But she said the union’s position has been to “have consistency and uniformity” in the implementation of mandates.

“Our nurses, the large percentage of them, are vaccinated and they need our support,” Kayne said.

The state’s demand that some – but not all – nurses and medical staff who work in patient and assembly environments should be vaccinated or risk suspension and dismissal has left some union leaders to question l ‘inconsistent mandates, which face legal challenges at the State and Federal level.

“I would say I find the distinction a little confusing, because I certainly understand why there is a mandate for those who work in hospital settings in hospitals, because there has to be the highest level of trust that those who treat them are vaccinated, ”said Frederick E. Kowal, president of United University Professions (UUP), the union representing nearly 13,000 employees who work at SUNY hospitals and their related medical facilities.

The UUP, like other unions, is urging its members to get vaccinated if they have no legitimate health reason not to. Still, the organizations challenged the Health Ministry’s mandate – to be shot or fired – which was rendered without negotiation.

Many New York City hospitals last week began putting in place plans to cut services as the deadline for vaccinating healthcare workers against the coronavirus went into effect on Monday, prompting some facilities to cut back their beds and surgery rooms available.

The medical workforce crisis, which began before the coronavirus pandemic, is unfolding as the state’s health ministry leadership has been rocked by retirements and resignations. Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday announced she is appointing Dr Mary T. Bassett, former commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, as the state’s health commissioner. Bassett will succeed Dr Howard Zucker, who resigned last week but had agreed to stay until a successor is appointed.

Earlier this week, Hochul said she would withdraw backup medical personnel from the National Guard and out of state to make up for any personnel issues exacerbated by the vaccination mandate. But the competition for out-of-state medical staff is fierce, as many other states also face critical staff shortages in hospitals and healthcare facilities.

There has been a small increase in last-minute vaccinations for many medical workers threatened with layoff on Monday, but many more have been suspended from their jobs – and face layoffs after two weeks.

Groups of health professionals and multiple unions have challenged the immunization mandates – through negotiations, cases with the Public Employment Relations Board, and lawsuits that claim what they claim to be violations of the Constitution and laws. labor laws.

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