New York Governor Kathy Hochul decided to continue disgraced Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s vaccine mandate for all healthcare workers. In a trend seen across the country, not all healthcare workers are willing to comply. The potential impact in New York hospitals is so significant that Hochul announced she had signed an executive order to alleviate the possible staffing shortages. According to the text of the order, Hochul has declared a statewide emergency and invoked her powers under the State Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan.
To put a finer point on it, Hochul is declaring an emergency due to a crisis she created by ordering the vaccine mandate. You may recall that Gov. Andrew Cuomo unilaterally managed the pandemic statewide under similar authority. He declared businesses open or closed, denied New Yorkers the ability to attend church, and required COVID-19-positive patients to return to their nursing homes under this authority. At one point, he even decided to specify what qualified as a meal to dictate whether legal adults could order an alcoholic beverage at an outdoor restaurant.
So now it is Hochul’s turn. To manage the healthcare shortage, she has reserved the right to call national guard medical personnel out of their civilian jobs to fill in. In addition, Hochul will allow all vaccinated, licensed physicians in Canada and the United States to practice in New York. She is also allowing registered nurses from other countries to work in New York. Hochul issued a similar invitation to other medical staff such as radiological technicians and midwives with varying geographic limitations depending on the specialty.
The order reads like a massive legal immigration program. Here is an example: “To the extent necessary to allow graduates of foreign medical schools having at least one year of graduate medical education to provide patient care in hospitals, is modified to allow such graduates without licenses to provide patient care in hospitals if they have completed at least one year of graduate medical education.” Much like the supposed deportation of Haitian immigrants from the southern border, these healthcare workers are not likely to leave when the “emergency” Hochul created is over.
She is even allowing nursing students to work under the supervision of a registered nurse without graduating. Hochul’s order also increases the scope of practice for nurses to initiate treatment and test protocols that usually require a doctor’s order. It removes all recertification requirements for medical and emergency personnel for at least a year, including retired practitioners who have not held a license in recent years. The New York State Department of Health will be monitoring staffing trends statewide in a 24/7 operations center and directing resources.
The significant relaxation of education and licensing requirements belies the statistic that Hochul tweeted about. She asserts that 92% of nursing home staff, 89% of adult care facility staff, and 92% of hospital staff have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. As of last week, 16% of healthcare workers had not received a vaccine, according to the New York State Department of Health. Either New York was experiencing a significant shortage of healthcare workers before the mandate, or a considerable number have already left their positions.
One hospital in New York reportedly announced it would cease labor and delivery services because of staffing shortages created by the mandate. The University of Rochester will temporarily close urgent care centers in Spencerport and Farmington. Erie County Medical Center Corporation anticipates losing about 400 staff members, forcing them to suspend elective inpatient surgeries and the acceptance of ICU transfers.
One question everyone should ask themselves is why approximately 70,000 healthcare workers and an as yet unknown number of emergency services providers may walk off the job rather than get vaccinated. The mandates to date, including President Biden’s, do not appear to acknowledge natural immunity. Some of these workers, who continued to work through the pandemic unvaccinated, have likely recovered from COVID-19 infections. Even Dr. Anthony Fauci now says he doesn’t have a good answer for why the recovered need to be vaccinated.
Hochul’s executive order is another consolidation of power under the pretext of an emergency she created. The oversight from the Department of Health over private facilities not under its control is one form of centralization. She has also continued all of the executive orders issued by Cuomo. Perhaps she believes relaxing work requirements result in skilled medical professionals flooding the state. However, it seems people are moving away from authoritarianism. Just ask Governor Ron DeSantis.