A Hospital Finds an Unlikely Group Opposing Vaccination: Its Workers
Northwell says that its mandate was put in place to protect patients. A spokesman said that the company was aiming to get 100 percent of its staff vaccinated and has used a variety of tactics to nudge hesitant workers, like offering them spa days. Before the pandemic, the hospital system encouraged flu vaccinations and required employees who were not vaccinated for flu to wear masks when among patients.
Some protesters, dismissive of scientific data and wary of mandates they say infringe on their civil rights, say they are willing to lose their jobs. Other workers said that they were considering moving out of state, perhaps to Florida, where hospital requirements are looser and the number of deaths and hospitalizations has steadily risen since June.
Across New York, the majority of the state’s more than 600,000 health care workers are vaccinated, but many are not. To date, 75 percent of the state’s roughly 450,000 hospital workers, 74 percent of the state’s 30,000 adult care facility workers and 68 percent of the state’s 145,500 nursing home workers have been fully vaccinated, the state said.
Modes of persuasion ranging from free cash to burgers to rides on the M.T.A. failed to persuade vaccine refusers, leading some hospital systems to take a harsher approach, which in turn, has spurred a backlash. Last month, the largest health care union in the country held a rally after the NewYork-Presbyterian hospital system mandated that workers receive at least one shot of the vaccine by Sept. 1.
Participants in a recent focus group at Staten Island University Hospital about how to persuade employees to get vaccinated said they were told by officials that about 60 percent of the staff had been vaccinated. Northwell Health did not confirm the figure, but said that about 77 percent of the employees are vaccinated across Northwell’s 23 hospitals in the city and the state.
The de facto leader of the hospital employees is John Matland, 36, a CT scan technician who is a good friend of Daniel Presti, the manager of Mac’s Public House bar on Staten Island, which last year gained notoriety for defying virus restrictions.
When indoor dining was banned in the area because of high coronavirus infection rates, the bar continued to serve local customers inside, prompting the police to arrest Mr. Presti and to padlock the bar.