Agencies providing home-based care to elderly and disabled New Yorkers face a large-scale loss of employees when the next phase of the state’s vaccine mandate takes effect on Oct. 7, according to a newly released industry survey.

In a survey this month by the Home Care Association of New York State, a subset of 189 agencies projected that more than 12,000 of their workers would quit rather than accept vaccination for COVID-19.

Since there are about 1,500 home care agencies across the state, the industry-wide losses would be several times higher, the association said.

Among agencies that responded to survey, the average vaccination rate for home health aides was 63 percent, almost 20 points lower than the 82.3 percent rate for all eligible New Yorkers. The average rates for other home care workers were 87 percent for therapists, 79 percent for nurses and 72 percent for administrative staff.

“The projected loss of services for home care patients would be exponentially beyond the above sample impacts and could be catastrophic during an ongoing and worsening workforce crisis,” the association said in a presentation.

The findings suggest that staffing shortages induced by the vaccine mandate – which took effect for hospitals and nursing homes on Monday – will soon spread to other sectors of health care.

The mandate, which was announced by former Governor Cuomo on Aug. 16 and made formal by the Health Department in late August, requires vaccination for a range of health-care workers who have direct or indirect contact with patients. It took effect for hospitals and nursing homes on Sept. 27 and on Oct. 7 will extend to a range of other providers, such as home care agencies, clinics, hospice programs and certain facilities for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled.

The passing of Monday’s deadline left some providers with acute shortages of staff, leading them to scale back services. 

As of Monday, the state reported staff vaccination rates of 92 percent for hospitals and nursing homes and 89 percent for other adult-care facilities – up from figures in the 70s when the policy was announced.

That still leaves the industry with roughly one-tenth fewer people available to work, at least temporarily – and much larger shortfalls at some facilities. In Erie County, the Terrace View nursing home lost 20 percent of its employees.

Data about the situation for other providers is scarce. A portion of the home care industry has been reporting staff vaccination rates and other pandemic data through the Health Department’s Health Emergency Response Data System, known as HERDS, but the state does not post summaries of that information as it does with hospitals and nursing homes.

About the Author

Bill Hammond

As the Empire Center’s senior fellow for health policy, Bill Hammond tracks fast-moving developments in New York’s massive health care industry, with a focus on how decisions made in Albany and Washington affect the well-being of patients, providers, taxpayers and the state’s economy.

Read more by Bill Hammond

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