Today is a day of disbelief for me; my disbelief is over the realization that New York State’s Healthcare Infrastructure will collapse next week unless something is done to end the vaccine mandate.
There is not one doubt in my mind, and I can not believe that I am even thinking and writing this in what is suppose to be the best country in the world and the great state of New York.
Before I became a nurse, I studied Political Science and International Development, worked on the Hill, was a teacher through AmeriCorps, was an election observer and trainer for the last election that phased out apartheid on the local level in South Africa, assisted in researching microfinance programs targeted at women in post-communist transitional free markets in Eastern Europe, and conducted program analysis of health and human rights programs in Western Africa. I learned and worked in dynamic places to understand infrastructure, economics, government, cross-cultural communication, power, and people.
My cornerstone belief from these experiences: if someone does not have their health- mental, physical, psychological, they do not have anything.
I eventually found my way to nursing. Today I am a Surgical/Trauma Critical Care Nurse at Stony Brook Medicine, a Professor of Adult Health, an Executive Board Member for the NYS Public Employee Federation, a shop steward, a member of the Statewide Nursing Committee, a local Labor and Management Committee Member, a National Advocate for PPE and Safe Staffing, a contributor to the podcast The Life Medical, and Whitley’s mom. Further, I am vaccinated.
With that being said, the position of all political leaders, specifically the perspective of Governor Hochul and her steadfast position of vaccine mandate for all healthcare workers (nurses, doctors, paramedics, pharmacy technicians, physician assistants, pharmacists, radiology technicians, housekeepers, security, clerks, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, dietary workers, respiratory therapists, distribution services, etc,) is the wrong position at this time.
According to the current mandate, if a hospital frontliner is not vaccinated by 5pm on Monday September 27th, this frontline worker will face suspension and termination. These are the same frontline workers who treated the public with limited or NO PPE when we, the medical community, did not even understand what COVID-19 really was. We, the hospital medical community, have given the public everything we have-sometimes losing ourselves and our lives to our service for our world’s and your betterment.
The vaccine is great for what it is, but it is not a sure thing. It helps protect from the worst case scenario: ventilation and ultimately death. We have enough PPE now. Let us wear it and do our jobs. I need my coworker’s skills, experience, and person to have safe patient-staff ratios and to continue to care for the public as we always have.
Hospital Administrators have assured the public that there will not be a problem with the unvaccinated frontliners. I am here to tell you the truth:
There is absolutely going to be a problem, and it is going to seriously harm the infrastructure of our healthcare system. My hospital has a 68% vaccination rate. We have approximately 12,000 workers. Do the math. Another hospital in the SUNY system has a 45% vaccination rate.
Fear of termination is not motivating, as healthcare professionals have been abused, bullied, haven’t received promised hazard pay, and continue to be underpaid for years-specifically the last 18 months.
Governor Hochul must quell her steadfastness now! The Governor has promised to replace experienced medical professionals with travelers and the National Guard.
Hospitals run 24/7. There is no one way that the state can meet the needs of all hospital facilities nor will these practitioners be competent in caring for patients in strange environments by September 27th at 5 pm.
Outcomes and care will not be as good. The Operating Room at my hospital has reduced its cases down to 50% in preparation of next weeks’ suspensions/terminations, the private hospitals plan to close units AND hospitals and shuttle patients and staff to larger hospitals to make sure they can run at capacity, and the 1199 hospitals are planning strikes in the upcoming two weeks to address contract inadequacies.
Elective surgeries will end. This expectation is dismal. This is the truth as I know it for sure.
Healthcare professionals are talking about the possibilities of malpractice and resignation as we can not bear the burden of losing the work of our colleagues. We are human and have been through enough. Let us take care of people. We have established systems in place protecting both the patients and staff from Covid. Let us continue to do our work.
It has been said that Covid would destroy our healthcare system. The vaccine mandate is the icing on the cake.
New York led the way in flattening the curve, and it was New York’s frontline hospital workers who gave their all. Honor us and healthcare infrastructure with a holt to the vaccine mandate. Healthcare frontliners are not terrorists.
Amy Lee Pacholk
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