NYS edict: Firing medical workers who refuse COVID vaccine is OK

Health care workers who refuse to get the coronavirus vaccine could be fired under an emergency edict expected to be approved Thursday by the New York State Health Department, The Post has learned.

“Covered entities may terminate personnel who are not fully vaccinated and do not have a valid medical exemption and are unable to otherwise ensure individuals are not engaged in
patient/resident care or expose other covered personnel,” the proposed rule states.

All 450,000 health-care workers in the Empire State’s hospitals, nursing homes and other settings are required to start getting the vaccine by Sept. 27 to help curb the spread of the highly contagious Delta strain.

The policy was announced by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Health Department last week.

At the time, DOH officials said they were still finalizing the rules when asked whether employers could discipline health-care workers — including dismissal.

Health care workers
Health care workers who refuse to get the coronavirus vaccine could be fired under an emergency edict seeking DOH approval.

The revised edict, expected to be approved by the DOH’s planning council under new Gov. Kathy Hochul, clearly gives medical-facility directors the authority to fire those who spurn the vaccine.

It will likely spark outcry, as vaccination mandates have already provoked a backlash, including protests outside Staten Island University/Northwell Health.

The Big Apple’s largest police union — the Police Benevolent Association — has threatened to sue the city if cops are required to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

But health advocates say its unacceptable for medical workers not to get the jab, especially given the fact they work in facilities with vulnerable, immuno-compromised patients or residents.

The regulation covers all workers, contract staff and volunteers at the facilities who “could potentially expose other covered personnel, patients or residents to the disease.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul
The revised edict is expected to be approved by the DOH’s planning council under new Gov. Kathy Hochul.

It requires all medical and health care facilities, including home care agencies, to regularly report to the state the lists of all employees who are vaccinated, not vaccinated or qualified for a medical exemption.

As The Post reported in recent weeks, a high rate of medical workers remain unvaccinated at hospitals and nursing homes.

Nearly a quarter of hospital workers statewide — 23 percent — are still unvaccinated, according to DOH data posted Wednesday.

In New York City, 25 percent of hospital workers are unvaccinated. Nearly a third of hospital workers are unvaccinated in Staten Island, Brooklyn, and The Bronx.

Meanwhile, 29 percent of nursing home workers statewide have not gotten their COVID-19 shots.

In New York City, 28 percent of nursing home workers are unvaccinated. The worst rate is in Brooklyn, where 37 percent of staffers have refused vaccination.

Two Health care workers
Health care workers could see a rise in firings under an emergency edict.

More than 55,000 New York deaths are linked to COVID-19, including 16,000 nursing home residents.

The state has also seen an uptick in new infections tied to the Delta strain. Since early July, cases have risen 10-fold, and 95 percent were identified as the more contagious variant.

Unvaccinated people are five times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 compared to individuals who have their shots, the state data shows.

Those who are unvaccinated have more than 11 times the risk of being hospitalized with COVID-19 or dying, a study released last week by the NYS DOH and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

“The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. They offer the benefit of helping to
reduce the number of COVID-19 infections, including the Delta variant, which is a critical
component to protecting public health,” the DOH directive states.

“Certain settings, such as healthcare facilities and congregate care settings, pose increased challenges and urgency for controlling the spread of this disease because of the vulnerable patient and resident populations that they serve.

Patient in ambulance truck
Advocates say it’s unacceptable for health care workers not to get the vaccine.

“Unvaccinated personnel in such settings have an unacceptably high risk of both acquiring COVID-19 and transmitting the virus to colleagues and/or vulnerable patients or residents, exacerbating staffing shortages, and causing an unacceptably high risk of complications,” DOH officials say in the order.

Currently, state medical facilities are required to offer the vaccine to workers, and some already began imposing mandatory COVID-vaccination policies.

President Biden also announced last week that as a condition of participating in the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, the US Department of Health and Human Services will impose new regulations requiring nursing homes to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for workers.

“The Department has determined that these emergency regulations are necessary to control the spread of COVID-19 in the identified regulated facilities or entities…Current circumstances and the risk of spread to vulnerable resident and patient populations by unvaccinated personnel in these settings necessitate immediate action,” DOH said.

Unvaccinated health care workers
The DOH believes unvaccinated health care workers have a high risk of both acquiring COVID-19 and transmitting the virus.


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