Words of appreciation outside Peconic Bay Medical Center in April 2020. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Peconic Bay Medical Center will have to terminate about 2% of its total workforce today under a Northwell Health COVID-19 vaccine policy that required all employees to present proof of vaccination by 11:59 p.m. Monday to avoid termination, according to PBMC Executive Director Amy Loeb.

Loeb said this morning she could not provide a precise number or what positions the unvaccinated employees hold because “it’s a moving target.” Loeb said employees were coming in with vaccination cards last night.

The unvaccinated staff members are not concentrated among any one type of employee, Loeb said, and the hospital is not facing a critical staff shortage as a result of the mandate, she said.

Peconic Bay Medical Center employs more than 1,200 people.

“Unvaccinated employees without exemptions that have been approved or are pending have until 11:59 p.m. Monday to get a shot or they will be let go on Tuesday,” Northwell Health’s Chief Human Resources Officer Maxine Carrington told The New York Times Friday.

East End state lawmakers earlier this month sounded an alarm about the impact of the State Department of Health’s controversial COVID-19 vaccine mandate would have on health care facilities in the local area, but hospital and nursing home officials said they did not foresee staff shortages as a result of the state mandate.

“I can say is that without question, we are well-staffed and able to take care of patients,” Loeb said in an interview this morning. “The number of employees who chose not to be vaccinated is very small at this point in time,” she said.

The vaccine mandate caused “a lot of lost sleep,” Loeb said. “It’s sad to lose anybody, but it’s fortunately not a huge impact.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Saturday released a plan she said would address what she called “preventable staff shortages in hospitals and other healthcare facilities statewide.”

The governor’s plan includes preparing to sign an executive order if necessary to declare a state of emergency that seeks to increase workforce supply and allow qualified health care professionals licensed in other states or countries, recent graduates, retired and formerly practicing health care professionals to practice in New York State, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

Other options include deployment of medically-trained National Guard members, and partnering with the federal government to deploy disaster medical assistance teams to assist local health and medical systems.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, the leading Republican candidate for governor, claimed yesterday that the state mandate is “leading to staffing shortages and chaos in our state’s hospitals and nursing homes, and abruptly forcing frontline healthcare workers out of their livelihoods.”

At a press conference outside the state office building in Hauppauge yesterday morning, Zeldin said employees who do not want to take the vaccine should instead be subjected to enhanced PPE and testing requirements.

“Our healthcare workers were nothing short of heroic the past 18 months,” Zeldin said. “They helped us navigate some of the pandemic’s darkest days and saved lives. We shouldn’t be firing these essential workers. We should be thanking them for all they’ve done for our communities,” he said.

Both the New York State Nurses Association and 1199 SEIU, the largest healthcare workers union in the country, oppose vaccine mandates, but both unions support the vaccine and have been urging their members to take the shot.

Workers who are terminated because of refusal to be vaccinated are not eligible for unemployment insurance absent a valid doctor-approved request for medical accommodation.

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