New York Considers Using National Guard to Replace Unvaccinated Healthcare Workers

New York Governor Kathy Hochul is considering employing the National Guard and out-of-state medical workers to fill hospital staffing shortages with tens of thousands of workers possibly losing their jobs for not meeting a Monday deadline for mandated COVID-19 vaccination.

The COVID-19 vaccination mandate for health workers was put into place by former Governor Andrew Cuomo on August 16. 

“I am monitoring the staffing situation closely, and we have a plan to increase our health care workforce and help alleviate the burdens on our hospitals and other health care facilities,” Hochul said in a statement Saturday.

One option is calling in officers from the National Guard that have medical training to plug the gaps that will be left by the workers who miss Monday’s deadline.

About 16% of New York’s 450,000 hospital employees, or 72,000 people, have not been fully vaccinated, leaving some concerned that action needs to be taken to avoid shortages.

“We’re roughly about 84% statewide vaccinated right now, so any initiatives that the governor could advance to increase the workforce is welcome and needed,” said New York State Health Facilities Association President Stephen Hanse.

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The plan, outlined in a statement from Hochul on Saturday, would allow her to declare a state of emergency to increase the supply of healthcare workers to include licensed professionals from other states and countries as well as retired nurses.

The plan comes amid a broader battle between state and federal government leaders pushing for vaccine mandates to help counter the highly infectious Delta variant of the novel coronavirus and workers who are against inoculation requirements, some objecting on religious grounds.

Hochul’s state of emergency order will also allow health care workers who are licensed in other states the ability to work in New York. The state will also be looking for ways to expedite visa applications for medical workers.

Health care workers that are fired due to noncompliance with the vaccine mandate will not be eligible for unemployment benefits, though there are some exceptions for those who can provide a doctor-approved medical accommodation.

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