New York could deploy National Guard to replace unvaccinated health workers in hospitals

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Virus Outbreak-Vaccine Mandates (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Virus Outbreak-Vaccine Mandates (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

New York is readying for a shortage of healthcare workers as a vaccination mandate takes effect today, and may be forced to bring in the National Guard to help out.

All health care workers in New York’s hospitals and nursing homes are required to have at least one dose of a Covid vaccine as of 27 September, according to a mandate issued last month.

On Saturday, Governor Kathy Hochul outlined steps that could be taken to increase the workforce if a significant number of hospital and nursing home employees miss the state’s deadline.

“We are still in a battle against Covid to protect our loved ones, and we need to fight with every tool at our disposal,” she said.

One path the governor set out was to declare a state of emergency that would enable health care professionals licensed outside of New York, recent graduates and retirees, to practice in the state.

Ms Hochul could also deploy medically trained National Guard members, partner with the federal government to send in Disaster Medical Assistance Teams and potentially bring in health care workers from other countries. She said she would be exploring ways to expedite visa requests for medical professionals.

New York is still some way off having a completely vaccinated health care workforce – as of 22 September, 84 per cent of hospital employees were fully vaccinated. Given that health care institutions nationwide have already been facing staff shortages, this could leave many struggling to provide their usual services and some hospitals are expecting to have to limit certain procedures.

Ms Hochul called the shortages “completely avoidable”, according to NPR, and was clear the deadline would be adhered to. She told reporters on Thursday that there were “no excuses” for workers refusing to get vaccinated.

She said: “I commend all of the health care workers who have stepped up to get themselves vaccinated, and I urge all remaining health care workers who are unvaccinated to do so now so they can continue providing care.”

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