Largest New York health care provider fires 1,400 employees over vaccine refusal

Northwell Health, the largest health care provider in New York state, on Monday fired 1,400 of its employees who did not comply with the state's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Joe Kemp, the company's assistant vice president of public relations, confirmed to The Hill that Northwell had terminated 1,400 employees who did not get vaccinated as was ordered by former New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Biden makes his pitch as tax questions mount Hochul gets early boost as NY gubernatorial race takes shape EMILY's List announces early endorsement of Hochul MORE (D). These employees represented almost 2 percent of Northwell's workforce of more than 76,000 who are all immunized against COVID-19.

"Northwell Health is proud to announce that our workforce – the largest in New York State – is 100 percent vaccinated. This allows us to continue to provide exceptional care at all of our facilities, without interruption and remain open and fully operational," the company said.

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The health care provider upheld its "rapid, aggressive approach" to ensuring full vaccine compliance while maintaining patient care, saying it viewed having a fully vaccinated workforce as part of its duty to protect the health of its patients, staff and the communities it operates in.

"Northwell regrets losing any employee under such circumstances," Northwell added. "We owe it to our staff, our patients and the communities we serve to be 100 percent vaccinated against COVID-19."

Shortly before he stepped down from office amid a sexual harassment investigation, Cuomo announced in August that New York would be requiring health care workers to begin their vaccination process by Sept. 27.

“We must now act again to stop the spread,” Cuomo said at the time. “Our health care heroes led the battle against the virus, and now we need them to lead the battle between the variant and the vaccine.”

Northwell announced its own vaccine mandate in August as well, Reuters noted, with the order applying to both clinical and non-clinical workers.

"Our goal was not to terminate employees," Kemp told Reuters, adding that these terminations would not affect patient care. "Our goal was to get people vaccinated."

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New York's vaccine mandate fully went into effect last week, with the order found to have boosted vaccination rates among health care workers. According to state data, 87 percent of hospital staff were fully vaccinated as of last week and 92 percent of both hospital and retirement home workers were at least partially vaccinated.

The statewide mandate also did not result in widespread facility closures or mass resignations as some officials had feared.

— Updated on Oct. 5 at 3:23 p.m.