According to industry insiders, thousands of homebound patients across New York State may be left without the care they need because home health workers are looking at Governor Kathy Hochul’s Thursday deadline to vaccinate.
About 50,000 home health care workers who have not yet been vaccinated can lose their jobs or leave on Thursday, according to RT Schwabe, CEO and co-founder of Premier Home Health Care.
If home health agencies needed to eliminate non-vaccinated workers, patients could lose care because companies like them would not be able to find replacements quickly due to labor shortages, which would severely hit health care, he said.
Schwabe said Premier Home Health Care has tried to encourage workers to get shots, and the company’s vaccination rate is up to 90 percent.
But the industry needs more time to look after vulnerable patients, who said they are applying for a temporary injunction to block the order.
The statistic of 50,000 non-vaccinated home-care workers statewide sounds right to Cathy Fabrio, CEO and President of the Trade Association of New York State Association of Health Care Providers, which represents the home care industry.
Home-care staffing agencies are “prioritizing their high-risk patients” and “moving caseloads to accommodate their patients as much as possible,” he said.
“But we are paying close attention to the clock,” he said.
Home-care staff will have to work overtime to cover patients if the state refuses to budge on Thursday’s deadline, he said, “but they are already working overtime throughout this epidemic.”
“They’re tired. They’re drowning, and we need some relief,” he said, noting that a large number of home-care workers are quitting their jobs during the epidemic and that the vaccine order only harms employees.
A similar vaccination order for some of the organization’s health workers, such as hospitals, which came into effect last month has led to some widespread layoffs and suspensions.
Despite the shootings, Hochul said he would not bother with the matter.
And unlike hospital workers, Fabrio noted, home-care workers do not necessarily report to the office every day, adding a logistical challenge to collecting vaccine evidence as well.
Al Cardillo, president of the Home Care Association of New York, said Thursday that the number of non-vaccinated home-care workers who lost their jobs could exceed 50,000.
Surveys by her group suggest that 70,000 home-care assistants may not vaccinate on more than 6,000 nurses.
He said the governor’s irregular deadline was “not responsible.”
“The biggest problem is not the mandate,” he said. “The order is a question of application.”
The state has created an “all-or-nothing scenario,” he said, adding that the governor said “good for your services” for elderly and vulnerable people.
Cardillo and everyone who posted with this story said he was in favor of promoting vaccines, but he urged the governor to reconsider the deadline.
In response to their and others’ pleas to address the upcoming labor shortage, states have relaxed the rules so that companies can tap outside home-care assistants and even military members to fill the gap.
But if thousands of workers were fired on Thursday, Cardillo said Friday there were definitely no replacements.
When reached for comment, Hochul’s office referred the post to the Department of Health.
“Getting vaccinated is critical for health workers to protect themselves and the vulnerable populations they care for, and we will continue to work with providers and stakeholders to protect quality patient care,” said Jill Montag, a DOH spokeswoman.
“We are encouraged by the increasing number of hospital and nursing home staff who have been vaccinated in the weeks and days before their vaccine mandatory deadline, and we expect health workers to receive at least one vaccine dose October 7.”