The workforce across Northwell's 23-hospital system is not 100 percent vaccinated. In a statement, the healthcare system says: "Northwell believes that having a fully vaccinated workforce is an important measure in our duty to protect the health and safety of our staff, our patients, and the communities we serve. This allows us to continue to provide exceptional care at all of our facilities, without interruption and remain open and fully operational."
It adds that while it regrets losing employees under the circumstances, it believes that it has the responsibility to protect the health of its patients and the communities it serves to be 100 percent vaccinated against the virus.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul has ordered healthcare workers in the state to get vaccinated, except those who are seeking religious exemptions. President Joe Biden has also ordered businesses with over 100 workers to require employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine or get tested weekly.
Healthcare workers who refused the vaccine have been placed on unpaid leave, leading to a lot of disruptions in the system. Strong Memorial Hospital, for instance, is pausing some of its elective procedures for two weeks.
The Biden administration has made vaccination a central part of its effort to vaccinate the country. Large hospital systems like Northwell Health seem to be complying with the vaccine mandate. In the state of New York, 87 percent of hospital workers have been fully vaccinated by September 29.
To avoid a staffing shortage in the state's healthcare industry, Hochul has declared a state of emergency that allowed her to deploy National Guard troops, expedite visas for workers from abroad and recruit newly graduated or recently retired healthcare professionals. (Related: New York calling in National Guard to fill hospital staffing shortages due to vaccine mandates.)
The governor's contingency plan reflects the fears that New York hospitals could face the same problems that have devastated hospitals in other parts of the country.
Northwell employs over 76,000 people and says that vaccinating all of its employees would allow them to provide exceptional care at their hospitals without interruption. Terminated workers have the opportunity for reinstatement in 30 days, according to Northwell spokesman Joe Kemp. However, the system is also recruiting healthcare workers for the vacant positions.
Although healthcare organizations account for the most number of firings of unvaccinated workers, others are expected to follow when workers start reporting to offices again.
Randi May, a labor and employment attorney at Hoguet Newman Regal & Kenney in New York, says that general counsel and human resources in their company are planning to do the same. One company that is already firing unvaccinated workers is United Airlines.
In August, the company told its 67,000 U.S.-based employees that they will need to be fully vaccinated by fall. It has initially identified nearly 600 employees who refused to follow the order, but about half of them have since opted to get vaccinated.
Many other companies face dilemmas regarding vaccine mandates because of worker shortages in retail businesses, restaurants, hotels and other service sector employers.
Get more news related to vaccination in workplaces at Pandemic.news.