BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – In anticipation of staffing shortages caused by New York State’s mandate that health care workers receive the COVID-19 vaccine and an unprecedented number of patients, ECMC says it will enact a contingency plan which will cut back on services.
Starting Monday, the hospital will suspend elective inpatient elective surgeries and temporarily stop accepting ICU transfers from other hospitals. ECMC is also planning on opening its incident command center to monitor operations. Hours will be reduced at its outpatient clinics so staff can work in the main hospital on Grider Street.
All of these changes will take effect on the day New York State is requiring hospital and nursing home workers to have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. ECMC officials say they anticipate about 10 percent of their workforce, representing about 400 workers, will not be vaccinated by that point.
State health officials say it is up to hospitals to determine how to implement the health care worker mandate, and what happens to employees who don’t comply.
“Their plans could include termination,” said Jeffrey Hammond, Deputy Director of Communications for the New York State Department of Health.
State data shows as of September 14, 87% of ECMC’s workers had completed their vaccination series.
Compounding the issue, ECMC officials say they recorded the single busiest day for inpatients in hospital history on Monday, when there were 553 inpatients. The hospital is licensed for 573 beds, staff says.
As part of its contingency plan, ECMC is also reducing units at the Terrace View Long-Term Care facility.
Other facilities are making preparations for Monday’s deadline for hospital and nursing home workers to get vaccinated as well. Stephen Hanse, the President and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association and New York State Center for Assisted Living, said many of the facilities his group represents are encouraging employees to get vaccinated.
“Those conversations are happening daily. As we look at the data, it’s working,” Hanse said.
Charles Hayes, Vice President of Marking and Communications at Elderwood, said the group of nursing facilities is making progress toward staff compliance.
We continue to have open dialog and to provide staff with information on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines. We understand that not all staff will comply and have contingency plans in place resulting from any voluntary resignations,” Hayes said.
News 4 has reached out to Kaleida Health and Catholic Health to see if they have contingency plans in place for when the vaccine mandate takes effect.
According to a spokesperson from Catholic Health, there are not any plans as of yet to roll back services.
We’ll update this story as we hear back from Kaleida Health.
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2017. See more of his work here.