TRENTON, N.J. – Newly sworn-in Assemblywoman Bethanne McCarthy Patrick knows a lot about front-line health care – she has been living it for three decades as an emergency medical technician and former firefighter. The already fragile industry now faces a bigger crisis, she warns, as the vaccine mandate handed down from Gov. Phil Murphy deals a potentially fatal blow to health care delivery, emergency services and the dedicated heroes who serve the public.
“My district office has been inundated with calls from desperate and dedicated health care professionals who are losing their jobs because of Governor Murphy’s executive order mandating Covid-19 vaccination and boosters and eliminating an alternative testing option. These workers have endured nearly two years of a pandemic only to be fired for refusing to take a shot that doesn’t stop someone from getting sick. They have worked overtime, been stressed to the max, but continued to show up because it’s more than a job, it’s a calling. Now they are being punished, instead of being rewarded, and we will all suffer for it,” said McCarthy Patrick (Salem).
Last week, the governor signed Executive Order No. 283 mandating Covid-19 vaccinations and boosters for certain health care workers and employees at high-risk congregate settings, and removing testing as an alternative to vaccination, except in rare cases.
“I know from first-hand experience that first responders, like EMTs and paramedics, are particularly vulnerable to staffing shortages, because of low wages and high turnover, but I worry now that they will be stretched so thin that life-saving care will be unnecessarily delayed. An already bleeding industry will be hemorrhaging and those in need of critical emergency services are the ones who will pay the ultimate price,” she added.
According to the American Ambulance Association, the turnover among paramedics and EMTs ranges from 20 to 30 percent annually, resulting in an unsustainable 100 percent turnover every four years. The 2020 nationwide survey of 258 EMS organizations found that nearly a third of the workforce left their ambulance company after less than a year. Eleven percent left within the first three months.
“Fully vaccinated and boosted individuals can still get Covid-19, and spread it. To blame our heroes who have put their lives on the line for their personal medical choices goes against what we know about this virus. A testing alternative is a good compromise that protects patients and workers and I implore the Murphy administration to reinstate this commonsense practice,” she said.