New York hospitals prepare for staffing crisis as vaccination mandate takes effect… thousands of health care workers will now be fired
09/28/2021 // Mary Villareal // Views

President Joe Biden's federal vaccine mandates are set to take effect, and healthcare systems around the country are bracing for the possibility of firing hundreds of nurses and other critical staffers who refuse to follow the mandates.

Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, New York, is planning to do that and more, saying that it may have to fire about 400 employees who refused to be inoculated. Similarly, officials from Northwell Health, the largest healthcare provider in the area, estimate that it may be forced to fire thousands of its people who refused to get vaccinated.

In an economy where there are more job openings than workers, forcing employees to choose between employment and their health or religious beliefs is not a smart idea.

There are plenty of hospitals left with massive staffing holes after mass firings: New York's largest private hospital network, New York-Presbyterian, has more than 200 employees who may face termination because they haven't received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Large numbers of healthcare workers remain unvaccinated

As of late September, 84 percent of New York's 450,000 hospital workers and 83 percent of nursing home workers (around 45,400) remain unvaccinated. Despite being directly threatened of expulsion by their superiors, most of these healthcare workers say that they're refusing their vaccinations due to religious or health grounds, with many saying they are allergic to certain ingredients in the vaccines.

New York's emergency order does not stipulate how hospitals and nursing homes should enforce the mandates. There is also a good chance that hospitals serving communities in greater need will be forced to make exceptions.


New York State's vaccination requirement for healthcare workers remains to be the largest mandate of its kind and is set to take effect, with weekly virus testings not permitted as a substitute measure. The state's willingness to risk large-scale layoffs of healthcare workers comes amidst a national nursing shortage.

Depending on how many healthcare workers get tired, the policy could test the resiliency of New York's health care system. Hospitals across the state are not creating emergency staffing plans that they typically reserve for natural disasters or surges in COVID-19 cases. Volunteers, students and retirees, as well as traveling nurses are set to fill the vacancies.

Northwell, with its 77,000 employees believes that it can weather any loss without affecting the care of its patients. However, Erie County Medical Center is not as sure, with its 553 inpatients on Monday -- the busiest day that it has on record. The hospital has become so crowded that it cannot discharge as many patients to nursing or group homes, as these places are also limiting admissions in anticipation of their own staff shortages.

Tom Quatroche, the Erie County Medical Center Corporation's president said that this is an unprecedented crisis. "I think we need more time to comply, and I’ve asked for that. For all the right reasons, the vaccine mandate was put in place. But the reality is it is creating a public health crisis in hospitals, with nobody to care for patients."

The hospital system also anticipates that the vaccine mandates could reduce the ranks of radiology technologists and phlebotomists, as some doctors have been urged to limit the imaging and blood work that the order in the following week. (Related: CRISIS FACTORY: New York to declare state of emergency due to staffing shortages caused by government's covid vaccine mandates.)

Firings could also be problematic for nursing homes, which are already facing staffing problems. according to the New York State Health Facilities Association, which represents about 250 nursing homes, they have already asked state officials to temporarily let unvaccinated nursing home workers keep working as long as they are getting tested regularly. The association's president, Stephen Hanse said that they are striving for 100 percent vaccinations, but it seems unachievable by the set deadline.

Still, despite the staffing challenges, the Greater New York Hospital Association, which represents 140 health systems and 55 nursing homes, supports the vaccination deadline. Kenneth E. Raske, the association's president, said in a statement that the mandate is the best way to ensure the safest possible environment to protect the health of the public. He also said that the association will work with the state to address any staffing changes.

Get more updates about how the government is handling the COVID-19 situation at

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