By Flora Prideaux
London, United Kingdom
Northwell Health, New York’s biggest Healthcare provider, has fired 1400 members of staff for failure to comply with the New York State vaccine mandate.
A spokesman for Northwell Health stated that this was part of their duty to protect others. “We owe it to our staff, our patients, and the community,” the spokesman Joe Kemp stated. Northwell Health is now “proud to announce that [its] workforce, the largest in New York State, is 100% vaccinated.”
Of Northwell’s 76,000-member staff, less than two percent of Northwell’s workforce was terminated. spokesman stated that “the goal was to get people vaccinated, not terminated.” In line with this statement, terminated workers have been given the opportunity to interview for reinstatement in the next 30 days. Northwell Health is still openly recruiting for jobs. They stated that “Many of these positions are being back fitted through recruitment. There will never be an impact [on] patient care.”
In August, New York State announced it would require all healthcare workers, more than 650,000 people, to take at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine by September 26th. This hard-line policy, which allows no exemptions for religious reasons, has been challenged in several lawsuits but has led to tens of thousands more workers being vaccinated. As of September 29th, 87% of workers are vaccinated, an increase from 84% just the week before.
Fired workers have reacted negatively. John Trinchino, a registered nurse who was fired from Staten Island University Hospital, owned by Northwell, said he had had COVID-19 early in the pandemic, and believed that his antibodies would protect him and that this treatment violated his civil liberties. In a statement to the New York Times, he said, “All this is going to lead to is worse care for the patients, and I’m just disgusted by it.” Karen Ross, a former patient care technician at Peconic Bay Medical Centre, was also fired the day that the mandate came into force.
Northwell Health responded in a statement defending their rapid approach. They stated, “Northwell has taken a rapid, aggressive approach to move successfully toward full vaccination compliance while maintaining continuity of care and ensuring that our high standard of patient safety is not compromised in any way.”
New York State is among five other states like Washington which have also issued vaccine mandates for healthcare staff. Similarly, Northwell Health is not the first to fire healthcare workers who did not comply with vaccine regulation. In June, Houston Methodist Hospital, a leading hospital in Houston, Texas, lost 153 workers, who were either fired or quit over the issue of vaccine mandate non-compliance. Likewise, in North Carolina just last week, Novant Health fired 175 workers over similar issues.
These regulations are in line with the Biden Administrations' new aim to vaccinate healthcare workers, as a central part of vaccinating the entire country. Upon the vaccine mandate announcement in New York State, Gov. Kathy C. Hochul declared a state of emergency over fears of a widespread shortage in health care staff. This granted her the ability to deploy the national guard and expedite visas for healthcare workers if necessary.
Currently, in the state of New York, over 365,000 currently have COVID-19, with more than 2,200 people currently in hospital, most of whom are unvaccinated. The battle of COVID versus individual rights is a high stakes one, and other states have some similarly difficult decisions to face in the next few months.