Medical facilities across New York are facing massive staffing shortages that have not only jeopardized the available bed space for patients in immediate need but are now also impacting the number of services offered in hospitals. It’s clear that the inability to provide patients with both essential and elective care has been seriously threatened by Gov. Hochul’s inadvisable, ineffective vaccine mandates for health-care workers. As long as these policies remain in place, New York is going to be facing a dangerous uphill battle.
Not surprisingly, staffing shortages have impacted nearly every facet of care. In places like Oswego, hospital-bed shortages have necessitated an ambulance diversion for local emergencies. For example, instead of ambulances being on the road for five or 10 minutes before being back in service, they are taking much longer trips to regional hospitals, sometimes traveling more than an hour in one direction, leaving the population vulnerable should another emergency take place.
Additionally, the lack of bed space has forced many hospitals to discontinue elective surgeries. Again, my district was hit particularly hard by these shortages as Oswego Hospital is among one of 32 hospitals in the state — Upstate University Hospital at Community General in Onondaga County was also included on that list — being forced to halt elective procedures due to yet another mandate from Gov. Hochul.
This is all very alarming. Elective medical procedures may not carry the same urgency that emergency procedures do, but many of them are critical to long-term care, pain management, or other quality-of-life issues that impact individuals’ ability to work and take care of their families. For these reasons, I have called on the governor and other state leaders to reconsider these drastic and overreaching vaccine mandates that continue to hinder the state’s medical capacity.
The fact remains, the decision to get a COVID-19 vaccine should be a personal choice by the individual in question. Forcing people to do so against their will or face losing their job has created a vacuum in some of the most critical segments of our communities. I urge Gov. Hochul to consider the damage these mandates are doing to our population. Otherwise, the health and safety of all New Yorkers will remain at risk.
William (Will) A. Barclay, Republican, is the New York Assembly minority leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses most of Oswego County, including the cities of Oswego and Fulton, as well as the town of Lysander in Onondaga County and town of Ellisburg in Jefferson County.