New York Nursing Homes Cannot Get State Hotline Staff Following Vax Tenure

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ALBANY – Nursing homes desperate to address staffing shortages related to New York’s new COVID-19 vaccine mandate are told ‘we have no staff to offer you or other nursing homes’ by calling the hotline specially set up to help fill vacancies, The Post learned.

“Despite what the media say, currently we have no staff to suggest to you or other nursing homes. I will log you into our system, ”a member of the state Department of Health staff in charge of the agency’s“ Surge and Flex Operations Center ”hotline told a nursing home when they spoke. requested reinforcements on October 4 – just one week after the mandate came into force. .

“Feel free to call with updates, but no need to call every day hoping it will be your lucky day,” said the operator at the disappointed nursing home, who wished to remain anonymous. .

Callers are assigned a “home number” and assigned a case, which is then reviewed based on the condition and the severity of the need is assessed, according to a source close to the hotline.

The harsh reality contradicts the public statements by Governor Kathy Hochul since the tenure took effect on September 27, as well as an executive order she signed declaring that there is a pool of healthcare workers ready to fill. positions after resignations or layoffs.

The mandate requires that all healthcare workers in healthcare facilities be vaccinated against the deadly virus – unless they have an approved medical exemption – otherwise employers can fire them.

The states hotline for staffing shortages has reportedly told nursing homes that “we have no staff to offer you or other nursing homes.”
AP Photo / Seth Wenig

Another source from the nursing home industry contacted the hotline on September 29 and was told “it is unstaffed.”

“They are aware this has been mentioned in the news regarding vaccine mandate staffing issues,” the source wrote, according to internal communications obtained by The Post.

But Hochul dug at a press conference on Tuesday when asked about the state’s refusal to release data relating to worker shortages in nursing homes or hospitals, which must be reported to the DOH in daily surveys.

She argued that healthcare facilities should call the DOH’s “24/7 operations center” to request staff and may even have access to student nurses. In the worst case, the National Guard could be deployed, although the state has not.

“We have a system in place to respond to any institution that needs help,” Hochul told reporters Tuesday in Albany.

“We’ve put all of these opportunities in place, whether it’s using student nurses, whether people with licenses have expired, whether or not someone is from another state… and so we strained the hand. We offered help. Very few took [us] because they are also required to have their own emergency staffing plans themselves, ”Hochul said.

A DOH representative told The Post that since last Monday, the agency has received “nearly 50 calls” related to staffing requests. But the representative did not say whether health workers had actually been deployed to the facilities.

Gov. Kathy Hochul continued to urge nursing homes to call the Department of Health's
Gov. Kathy Hochul continued to urge nursing homes to call the Department of Health’s “24/7 operations center.”
Lev Radin / Pacific Press via ZUMA

Statewide vaccination rate for senior care staff who have received at least one injection is 97%, latest DOH data shows, compared to 92% of staff on the day of the announcement of the mandate.

Although residents and staff at elderly care facilities were the first to line up last December to get vaccinated, efforts to increase vaccination rates have met with resistance.

But nursing homes could be on the verge of losing more staff in the coming week due to a case pending in federal court, where a judge is expected to rule no later than Oct. 12 if employers may or may not deny requests for religious exemptions from vaccination. .

Hochul said she was confident the warrant would stand in court.

The DOH confirmed to The Post that 2,934 workers have “called for another exemption, which is the subject of an ongoing litigation” – a nod to the total number of religious exemptions submitted.

674 other countries have benefited from medical exemptions.

There are 613 nursing homes in New York City and around 145,408 employees, according to the DOH on September 23 – but it is not known how many workers were laid off or quit because they refused to be vaccinated.

“They talked about calling the National Guard and importing nurses from out of state and out of the country and now when the facilities say ‘we’re ready to use these people,’ the state says,” we don’t have one, “said Bill Hammond, the Empire Center’s senior researcher for health policy.

The mandate for the COVID-19 vaccine in New York nursing homes went into effect on September 27.
The mandate for the COVID-19 vaccine in New York nursing homes went into effect on September 27.
AP Photo / Seth Wenig

A nursing home industry source told The Post: “We said [nursing homes] we are not convinced that the staff would actually be available because our past history throughout the pandemic has been just that. ”

“The volunteer corps or the state hotline has not been able to provide assistance to long-term care providers… You are more likely to send an investigation team to your facility rather than a new staff, “the source said, noting that the DOH would likely send a group of agency inspectors to assess current staffing and security protocols,” the source added.

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, more than 15,000 nursing home residents have died from the virus.

The ex-governor in disgrace. Andrew Cuomo’s administration refused to release data regarding the actual number of virus-related deaths for months, until a state judge forced the DOH to release statistics.

The former senior Cuomo official then admitted they had “frozen” and worried about retaliation from the Trump administration if they released the data.

The FBI and the Eastern District of New York opened an investigation into the case shortly thereafter and are apparently still investigating the matter.

The DOH did not return an immediate request for comment by The Post.


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