NY health care workers must get Covid booster by Monday. State association wants an extension – Buffalo News

NY health care workers must get Covid booster by Monday. State association wants an extension – Buffalo News

Eligible employees at New York hospitals, nursing homes and other health care settings have until Feb. 21 to get the Covid-19 booster dose.
Time is running out for New York health care workers to get a Covid-19 booster shot before the state’s Monday deadline.
Just in Western New York, thousands of eligible workers still need to get the extra dose to keep their jobs.
That’s why some, including a statewide health care association, want extra time to be put on the clock.
While 86% of eligible employees are boosted at Kaleida Health, about 1,100 of its workers still need the extra dose by Monday, said Michael Hughes, the system’s chief administrative officer.
At Catholic Health System, about 70% of eligible employees have received the booster so far, spokesperson JoAnn Cavanaugh said. But another 1,850 workers remain to be boosted before the deadline, she added.
And while 70% of eligible employees at Erie County Medical Center and Terrace View Long-Term Care Facility are boosted, about 800 employees still need to get the extra dose in the next few days, spokesperson Peter Cutler said.
With the days waning, Healthcare Association of New York State President Bea Grause wrote a letter Tuesday to Gov. Kathy Hochul to request the state extend the deadline for 90 days to give hospitals, nursing homes and home health agencies more time to comply and to avoid further employee terminations amid an industrywide staffing crunch. 
“HANYS hears member concerns that more health care personnel, including those serving in critical roles in our institutions, will leave rather than get a booster,” Grause wrote. “Members are already reporting resignations.
“With our health care workforce in crisis and burned-out staff leaving the field, the state must carefully consider the impact of its policies on the availability of staff, which directly impacts patient care,” she wrote. “Many of our members cannot sustain the additional loss of staff without affecting the availability of services in their communities.”

State Health Department data shows that, as of Tuesday, just three of every 10 hospital workers in the five-county Western New York region had received booster shots and documented it with their employer.
Dating to the state’s vaccine mandate in the fall, nearly 37,000 health care workers in New York have lost their jobs, resigned, retired or been furloughed due to being unvaccinated against Covid-19, 3.5% of the state’s total health care workforce, according to state data. That has included several hundred health care employees in Western New York.
Hochul’s office did not respond to a request seeking comment to Grause’s letter. HANYS spokesperson Janae Quackenbush said Thursday that “discussions with the governor and other administration officials are ongoing.”
In an email, the Health Department said it continues to work with health care facilities to encourage employees to get booster doses when eligible. Like the state’s vaccine mandate in the fall, a medical exemption is allowed.

While the number of workers who lost or are losing their jobs is a small percentage of total workers, every little bit hurts amid a staffing shortage that means hospitals can’t operate as many beds – especially during yet another wave of Covid-19 hospitalizations.
The department also noted that not all fully vaccinated health care workers are eligible yet for the extra dose, considering federal guidance recommends a booster five months after getting the second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. For the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a booster is recommended two months later.
At ECMC, for instance, Cutler said another 400 staff members aren’t yet eligible for the booster.
Cavanaugh noted Catholic Health has some employees who may not be eligible for a booster until June, given when they completed their primary vaccine series.

Health care providers are concerned the state’s booster mandate, which requires workers to get a booster within two weeks of becoming eligible, could worsen staffing challenges. As it is, only 26% of the state’s hospital employees have gotten the booster, though not all are eligible yet.
Until now, hospital groups and industry officials haven’t expressed much opposition — at least publicly — to the state’s booster mandate for health care workers. When Hochul announced plans for the mandate on Jan. 7, it was essentially a continuation of the vaccine requirement from the fall, which required health care employees to get their first vaccine dose by Sept. 27 or risk termination. 
And at the time Hochul announced the booster mandate early last month, the state was in the midst of an Omicron surge that was filling up hospitals with patients and also causing an increasing number of health care workers to test positive, keeping them out of work for a minimum of five days. The booster, she said, would provide the best protection for health care workers. Federal data shows the booster is 90% effective at preventing hospitalization from the Omicron variant.
Now, with the Covid-19 wave falling and local hospitalizations at their lowest level in three months, hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities are confronting a lingering staffing challenge that won’t subside with the pandemic.  
Grause, of HANYS, wrote that there is concern that “for many exhausted health care workers, the booster requirement is seen as the last straw.”
Still, she noted, the association’s members are working to comply with the booster requirement.
At Catholic Health, Cavanaugh said the organization is having booster shot vaccine clinics at all of its hospitals this week, hoping to make it more convenient for hospital staff to get the extra dose.
Jon Harris can be reached at 716-849-3482 or jharris@buffnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ByJonHarris.
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I’m a Genesee County native and Syracuse University grad who covered business at the (Binghamton) Press & Sun-Bulletin and at The Morning Call in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I joined The Buffalo News in September 2021, covering the business of health care.
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Eligible employees at New York hospitals, nursing homes and other health care settings have until Feb. 21 to get the Covid-19 booster dose.
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