New York hospitals are creative in meeting Covid vaccination requirements

NYC Health + Hospitals, whose vaccination or testing policy went into effect on Monday, has asked its IT department to create a system in which the results of any test performed in any part of the system will be automatically uploaded according to criteria. Human resources will contact workers who have not completed weekly testing and will have the opportunity to get tested for Covid-19 right away, said Dr. Andrew Wallach, chief physician for outpatient care.

Workers who are tested outside of H + H’s site will have to manually upload test results, Wallach said.

At least 60% of the system’s 42,244 employees were vaccinated, although Wallach said this could be an underestimate as efforts to determine coverage continue.

Those who do not adhere to this policy will not be allowed to work and sent home without pay, Wallach said. There is no set number of strikes against workers, but if there is a pattern of non-compliance, the system will take “progressive disciplinary action,” up to and including layoffs.

“We hope we don’t have to use this,” Wallach said. “I would prefer that we fix the flaws in the system.”

Northwell Health, which announced its vaccination or testing policy on Monday, plans to offer 24/7 testing in all of its hospitals so that unvaccinated or partially vaccinated employees can take the required weekly test while on duty. Northwell said it will pay for the tests and process them in its own labs, and the results will be available within 48 hours, said Vicki Kahaner, Northwell’s vice president of employee relations. Unvaccinated staff will be allowed to work while awaiting test results.

“We are doing our best to make it as convenient as possible,” Kahaner said.

In accordance with the policy, effective August 16, non-compliant personnel will be subject to Northwell’s progressive disciplinary process, starting with a conversation to familiarize the employee with the policy. Those who consistently violate the requirements can have up to five chances to change their behavior or face dismissal.

Of the 76,000 Northwell employees, about 77% have been vaccinated.

Health systems that allow exceptions for medical or religious reasons as part of their mandate should develop a protocol for processing applications.

At Health + Hospitals, these requests will be reviewed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Department. Wallach said this could allow an exemption from weekly testing if employees go on extended vacations or work remotely. In such situations, managers need to be informed so that weekly tracking of these workers can be canceled if necessary, he added.

The Presbyterian State of New York, which announced its vaccination mandate in June, is giving employees the opportunity by August 6 to apply for a vaccination exemption for pregnancy, medical or religious reasons. He did not disclose details of the verification process, but said requests “will be carefully analyzed and granted if necessary.” Unvaccinated employees who are not tax exempt are subject to termination.

At Brooklyn University Hospital, part of SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, more than 60% of employees received the vaccine through the medical center, the spokesperson said. Persons vaccinated elsewhere were not included in the count. Prospect Lefferts Gardens Hospital has more than 4,000 employees, according to the website.

The hospital will comply with established rules regarding religious and medical exceptions, the spokesperson said. However, given Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent announcement regarding vaccinations, she said the non-compliance policy and procedures have yet to be developed.

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