Sunday, November 28, 2021

The flu is already a major problem in New York, but the vaccination shortage is critical

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Hospitals and emergency rooms across New York are dealing with critical shortages of vaccines amid fears that workers may refuse to accept their work restrictions.

A New York health official called the situation “very serious” as more than 3,000 workers at city-run hospitals have refused to take the vaccination.

Some hospitals have imposed limits on the number of people admitted while others have sent out warning notices to patients and staff. Even visitors who are vaccinated are at risk.

In Brooklyn, at Staten Island University Hospital, patients were admitted to the emergency room when workers refused to comply with the ban on workers who have not been vaccinated, according to a spokesman.

“Our ER staff has refused to comply with the health department-mandated restrictions for the flu vaccine,” said John Siciliano, the chief of staff for the hospital. “If clients show up because of the limited ability to see doctors or nurse’s, they will be permitted to access our hospital.”

As of Tuesday, about 5 percent of workers at the city’s five public hospitals — Bellevue, Maimonides, Bellevue-Grace Hospital, Kings County Hospital and Mount Sinai — had refused to take the flu shot, said city health department officials.

“It’s a serious situation,” the department’s medical director for communicable disease, Albert A. Wenger, said. “The employees at these hospitals are showing a significant misunderstanding of what happens in this country if you do not get vaccinated.”

The flu shot is mandatory for anyone working in a hospital or emergency room in New York, although officials warn that the flu season is just beginning and there is no guarantee that last year’s vaccination will protect against this year’s flu.

The state last year allowed localities to impose mandatory vaccinations for certain staffers in hospitals and emergency rooms. The city made the mandate optional for most employees.

New York state’s Board of Health today imposed a surprise 30-day window for cities to make changes to their policies, giving hospitals and emergency rooms one month to make the required changes in staffing, staffing numbers, case allocation and hospital requirements.

“The Board of Health made its decisions based on its longstanding policy to allow localities to make exceptions, where appropriate, to its vaccination requirements for workers in hospitals and emergency rooms,” the board said in a statement.

“As the severe flu season moves into its peak and issues continue to be raised by health care providers, it is important that localities comply with the Board of Health’s decisions and address any limitations on the staffing, staffing allocations, case allocation and hospital requirements as appropriate.”

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