NJ Hospitals Can Begin Firing Non-boosted Workers
New Jersey hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare centers can begin terminating employees who have not gotten their COVID-19 booster shots as of today.
It appears few, if any, will do so.
Gov. Phil Murphy imposed one of the toughest vaccine mandates in the nation last January requiring healthcare workers and anyone else who works in a congregate setting to be fully vaccinated and boosted or face termination.
State data is incomplete on how many healthcare workers have not been boosted, but the data that is available is significant.
As of last Friday, more than 40% of nursing home workers had not gotten their extra dose of COVID vaccine. That's nearly 23,000 workers.
Hackensack Meridian Health, one of the state's largest hospital groups, has reported 99.8% of it's workforce is fully vaccinated, but only 80% have received a booster. That's more than 7,000 workers who are not in compliance with the state mandate.
The New Jersey Hospital Association on Friday asked the Murphy administration for a 90-day extension of today's deadline. Murphy said last week that he would not "back away" from the mandate, but did not offer any other comment.
His executive order left the disciplinary process up to individual employers. Already facing staffing shortages, few will be willing to further reduce staff due to suspensions or termination of non-compliant employees.
A spokeswoman for Hackensack Meridian told NJ.com they will continue to work with employees who have not gotten their booster shots to encourage them to do so, but gave no indication they would begin the termination process.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated guidance for receiving booster shots that would increase the time between your last primary dose and your booster. The NJHA says that is effecting the number of healthcare workers who remain non-boosted.
NJHA President and CEO Cathy Bennett warned enforcing the booster mandate will only make the current staffing shortage worse. “Hospitals have always faced cyclical staffing shortages," Bennett said in a statement, "But the disruptive force of COVID-19 has created an unprecedented workforce plight across the entire continuum of care.”
The NJHA estimated that more than 13% of the current nursing vacancies are going unfilled.