Gov. Hochul expands eligible health care workforce to alleviate staffing shortages

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FILE – In this Dec. 21, 2020, file photo, Michelle Chester, director of employee health services at Northwell Health, prepares the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Valley Stream hospital in Valley Stream, N.Y. Hospitals and nursing homes across the country are preparing for worsening staff shortages as state deadlines arrive for employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. New York health care employees had until the end of the day Monday, Sept. 27, 2021, to get at least one dose. (Eduardo Munoz/Pool Photo via AP, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (WWTI) — New York State Governor Kathy Hochul is taking action to address staffing shortages in health care facilities.

Late on Monday night, Gov. Hochul signed an executive order to alleviate potential staffing shortages in health care facilities in the state. The order expanded the eligible health care workforce and allows additional workers to administer COVID-19 tests and vaccinations. This was as the deadline for hospital and nursing home staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine hit statewide.

“The only way we can move past this pandemic is to ensure that everyone eligible is vaccinated, and that includes those who are taking care of our vulnerable family members and loved ones,” Governor Hochul said in a press release. “On Saturday I released a comprehensive plan in advance of the deadline for the vaccine mandate that keeps New Yorkers safe, and tonight I am adding even more provisions to take bold action to alleviate potential staffing shortages. To monitor developments on the ground, I am also directing an around-the-clock operations center to assist local partners and troubleshoot staffing issues in real-time.” 

The first part of this order directed a 24/7 Operations Center, led by the New York State Department of Health, to constantly monitor staffing operations and trends. The Center will also provide guidance to healthcare facilities and troubleshoot situations.

Additionally, the executive order listed a series of provisions that will allow additional categories of health care workers to provide care. This allows health care workers from different states and counties, including physicians, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians assistants, midwives, clinical nurse specialists, licensed master social workers and licensed clinical social workers to practice in the state.

The executive order also waived re-registration fees, which created an expedited re-registration process. It additionally allows practitioners to work or volunteer in other facilities, physicians visits in nursing homes to be done using telemedicine, state-licensed providers without current registrations to practice without penalty, graduates of SED-registered programs to practice in a hospital or nursing home for 180 days following graduation and provides flexibilities for clinical labs to increase testing capacities.

According to the Governor’s Office, the percentage of nursing home staff who has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine increased to 92% on Monday evening. This is up from 70% on August 15 before the vaccine mandate was announced. This rate also increased among staff in adult care facilities as it now stands at 89%.

In hospitals, the percentage of hospital staff fully vaccinated was 84% as of September 22. This is up from 77% on August 10 before the vaccine mandate was announced. Preliminary self-reported data shows that hospital staff receiving at least one dose of vaccine is 92% as of Monday evening.

Healthcare workers are required to receive the first dose of the vaccine by September 27 and be fully vaccinated by October 7. Each healthcare institution is responsible for developing a plan for the implementation of the mandate, and any action it will take regarding non-compliant employees.

According to NYSDOH, the percentage of hospital workers with a completed vaccine series is calculated from the number of eligible staff and the number completing the recommended series of a given COVID-19 vaccine product. This includes either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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