New York officials are “proactively working” with long-term care providers experiencing staffing shortages tied to the pandemic and the state’s new COVID-19 vaccination mandate, according to a top state executive. 

Stephen B. Hanse

“We are working closely with Gov. [Kathy] Hochul’s (D) administration in terms of New York’s staffing crisis,” Stephen Hanse, president and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association, told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Thursday. 

“She is well aware of the issue and is proactively working with providers to [find] solutions to help recruit and retain workers, which is a very, very positive thing in terms of really dealing with the healthcare workforce crisis,” he added. 

Hanse’s vote of confidence comes amid a report that New York has been unable to  supply staffing help for long-term care providers who’ve called an emergency hotline requesting assistance for shortages tied to its COVID-19 vaccination mandate. The governor’s office, prior to the mandate going into effect, also said it would turn to the National Guard to keep facilities fully staffed in case of shortages.

“[Wednesday], I was with a number of providers and owners, and I am unaware of any facility that has contacted the hotline to date,” Hanse said. “Yes, our No. 1 issue is staffing shortages. It is a significant issue. It’s negatively impacting many providers’ ability to take new admissions from hospitals or the community. That being said, I am unaware of any providers or facilities that have called the hotline and experienced what was reported.” 

State data shows that 97% of long-term care staff have been vaccinated since the mandate’s termination clause kicked in on Sept. 27. 

“The numbers are continually rising. Providers are working closely with their staff, especially staff who they had to furlough or lay off, to continue to educate them on the safety and efficacy of the vaccination,” Hanse said. “However, we are facing shortages and while the statewide number is trending in a very positive direction, that’s the macro number.” 

He explained that, on a facility-level, providers are struggling daily to manage staffing shortages. 

“If you have a nursing home let’s say has four night nurses and one or two refuse the vaccination, and consequently are unable to work, that’s a 25% or 50% cut in staff,” he said. “On the facility-by-facility basis it is a daily struggle to really manage staff and continue to recruit and maintain new workers.”