VESTAL, NY (WSKG) — Many feared a mass exodus of medical staff when New York’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for hospital workers went into effect. Over a week later, most healthcare workers have received the vaccine and kept their jobs, but providers say even the smallest loss of staff affects those who are still there.
“Losing these professionals, any number of them, there’s some impact that’s felt,” said Jonathan Lawrence, President of Arnot Health.* “I don’t know of any hospital that claims to be overstaffed, so it would be disingenuous to say that there’s not an impact.”
Arnot Health, a healthcare system in Elmira with several medical centers and hospitals throughout the region, has about 3,000 employees. Lawrence said 97 percent of Arnot’s workers are either fully or partially vaccinated.
Staff shortages were a widespread issue long before the mandate. Now, compounded with rising COVID cases in Chemung County, Lawrence said it is straining the remaining staff.
“People are tired, and we’ve seen a significant resurgence here. There’s a significant demand in our emergency rooms, in our COVID unit, in our ICU, and so, we need all hands on deck,” Lawrence explained. To meet demand, he said some staff have been working extra hours, taking different shifts, or being moved to other units.
Overall, Lawrence said he is relieved that the majority of Arnot’s workers got vaccinated.
“I think many of them believe that the work that they do here is very important for them and for our community, and they were able to overcome any reticence that they had about taking the vaccine,” Lawrence said.
Vicky Morabito is the Executive Director of Elizabeth Church Manor, a nursing home and assisted living facility in Binghamton. She said of 220 employees, less than 10 left rather than get the vaccine.
Nearly 85 percent of Elizabeth Church Manor staff were vaccinated even before the mandate, and according to Morabito, that number is close to 100 percent.
“These are long term employees, it’s not as if they have only worked here for a couple months or changed jobs,” said Morabito. “These are folks that have a good track record with us and they want to keep working.”
Morabito said in the end, the impact was minor but it does mean some people may end up working longer hours.
*Full disclosure: Arnot is a WSKG underwriter.