NEW YORK (WABC) -- With New York state's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers now in effect, thousands faced with either getting the shot or losing their jobs received at least one dose as the deadline approached, according to state figures.
Workers had until Monday to get their first vaccine under the new requirement, leaving hospitals and nursing homes across the state bracing for the prospect of severe staff shortages fueled by suspensions or terminations for those refusing to be inoculated.
Gov. Kathy Hochul released figures late Monday showing vaccination rates rising among the state's 450,000 hospital workers and for other healthcare workers.
The figures were released as she signed an executive order providing her with expanded powers to alleviate staff shortages.
By Monday evening, 92% of nursing home staff received at least one vaccine dose, and preliminary data showed 92% of hospital staff receiving at least one dose of vaccine, the governor said.
Last Wednesday, state figures showed 84% of hospital workers fully vaccinated.
All New York City-run and private hospitals appeared to be operating normally Tuesday, though about 500 nurses for NYC Health + Hospitals are not at work, with H + H having preemptively replaced them.
Unvaccinated workers were not being fired in hopes of encouraging vaccinations after the deadline, but they cannot come to work or get paid.
"We anticipated there would be some losses of staff," H+H president Dr. Mitch Katz said. "We knew that no matter what our efforts, some people would not get vaccinated, we planned appropriately."
NYC Health + Hospitals ticked up to 91% vaccination rate this morning - up from 90% Monday, and city officials said about 5,000 employees were unvaccinated in the hospital system, down from more than 8,000 a week ago.
Northwell, the state's largest private hospital system, fired about two dozen "unvaccinated leaders," management level or above, for not getting vaccinated.
"Northwell Health today notified all unvaccinated team members that they are no longer in compliance with New York State's mandate to vaccinate all health care workers by September 27," Northwell said in a statement. "We have begun a process to exit all unvaccinated team members using a carefully planned approach that both maintains continuity of care at all of our facilities and ensures the safety of all of our patients. Northwell regrets losing any employee under such circumstances, but as health care professionals and members of the largest health care provider in the state, we understand our unique responsibility to protect the health of our patients and each other. We owe it to our staff, our patients and the communities we serve to be 100 percent vaccinated against COVID-19."
Stony Brook University Hospital said 93% of its employees had been vaccinated, and that the number continues to increase, though fewer than 200 employees were placed on suspension without pay and will be scheduled to meet with Labor Relations representatives to discuss their circumstances.
While awaiting this meeting, they can use vacation or holiday time off. If they continue to elect not to receive the vaccine, they will be terminated in accordance with the NYS DOH order.
Hochul's executive order allows out-of-state doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to practice in New York, makes it easier for retirees to return to the workforce, and allows physician visits in nursing homes to be done by telemedicine.
Also, New York state-licensed providers without current registrations will be able to practice without penalty. And the order broadens the roles of emergency medical technicians, such as allowing basic EMTs to vaccinate and test for COVID-19.
Health care workers can apply for a religious exemption, at least for now.
A federal judge on October 12 will consider a legal challenge arguing that such exemptions are constitutionally required.
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