With less than a week before New York state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers takes effect, the University of Rochester Medical Center hospitals' contingency plans are slowly coming to fruition.
The state mandate requires that health care workers receive at least one vaccine dose by Sept. 27 or be released from their hospital or nursing home duties.
A statement released by URMC on Thursday reported 99% of its professional medical staff and 91% of all employees across the six hospitals were partially or completely vaccinated as of Sept. 20. This doesn’t include employees who have received medical or religious exemptions.
"More than 23,000 employees at UR Medicine hospitals have already chosen vaccination, and the numbers at each hospital are growing as the mandate deadline approaches,” said URMC’s chief medical officer, Dr. Michael Apostolakos. However, the institution has already taken steps to prepare for the best-case and worse-case scenarios.
Apostolakos said staff shortages, not related to the mandate, have caused 11 UR Medicine Labs to temporarily close some patient service centers effective Sept. 28. Officials said closures were done in a "careful and deliberate manner," and in many cases these labs had very low patient volume.
A list of closures will appear here in the next day or so.
Apostolakos said Strong Memorial Hospital has already closed hospital beds in some units, and Highland has postponed some elective procedures since Monday.
“UR Medicine has been recruiting aggressively for months to fill vacant positions, and we will intensify those efforts as the mandate takes effect until our hospitals are fully staffed,” Apostolakos said.
In the meantime, URMC has already taken steps to accommodate the shortage including the temporary closure of the UR Medicine Urgent Care in Spencerport this week and the one in Farmington on Saturday. There will also be a two-week pause in scheduling new elective procedures at Strong beginning on Sept. 27, the day of the mandate deadline in an attempt to free up staff for more critical and emergency procedures.
“UR Medicine hospitals will remain open for business and ready to provide essential care for patients,” Apostolakos said.