Sixteen full-time health care workers at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital who had not received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by Monday have been suspended without pay and will be fired if they don’t get vaccinated within 30 days, hospital officials said on Tuesday.
Their absence has forced Stony Brook Southampton Hospital to scale back some outpatient services, the officials said, but the hospital expects to be at full strength soon.
Last month, the New York State Department of Health issued an order that required employees of hospitals or nursing homes to receive at least one vaccine dose by Monday, Sept. 27, and staff who provide home care, work at a hospice, or at an adult care facility to get their first shots by Oct. 7. An exemption was permitted for those with a pre-existing health condition who could be negatively impacted by the vaccination. The order gave the facilities permission to implement a policy to ensure compliance, and required them to report the percentage of vaccinated personnel, and the percentage of workers granted a medical exemption.
Stony Brook Southampton Hospital is adhering to the state’s guidelines, hospital officials said in a statement. “We have continually communicated to and educated our staff who qualify under this mandate and encouraged them to get vaccinated by providing them with information and direct access to vaccine PODS,” or points of distribution, they said. “As of Sept. 28, 98.1 percent of Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s full-time workforce, and 100 percent of our physicians have met [the state’s] vaccination guidelines.”
Northwell Health, which operates the Peconic Bay Medical Center, and Stony Brook University Hospital have also warned unvaccinated employees that they would be fired, Newsday reported on Tuesday. Northwell Health fired about two dozen employees in leadership positions for not abiding by the guidelines, according to the report, and Stony Brook University Hospital has suspended without pay about 200 unvaccinated staffers. “If they continue to elect not to receive the vaccine, they will be terminated in accordance with the [state] order,” Stony Brook officials told Newsday.
On Saturday, Gov. Kathy Hochul said that, to prepare for possible staffing shortages, the state has developed a plan to replace health care workers who refuse to be vaccinated with those licensed in other states or countries, recent graduates, retired and formerly practicing professionals, and, if necessary, medically-trained National Guard members. The plan notes that workers who are fired because of a refusal to be vaccinated would not be eligible for unemployment insurance without a doctor-approved medical exemption.
Stony Brook Southampton Hospital has also developed a plan to fill the roles of those who are not vaccinated. “We will make staffing adjustments as necessary,” the officials said. “These staffing contingency plans will allow us to continue to provide safe staffing, and the best possible care to our patients.”
Ms. Hochul on Tuesday issued a report showing that the number of health care workers who have received at least one vaccine dose has been steadily increasing since the mandate was announced. Among nursing home staff the rate increased to 92 percent as of Monday, up from 71 percent on Aug. 24, the percentage of adult care facilities staff that are now vaccinated increased to 89 percent, up from 77 percent, and the percentage of hospital staff increased to 85 percent, up from 77 percent. “This new information shows that holding firm on the vaccine mandate for health care workers is simply the right thing to do to protect our vulnerable family members and loved ones from Covid-19,” she said.