Caitlin Psomas doesn’t think it’s right.
Unvaccinated athletes and performers can now perform in New York City, but this Bay Shore native lost her job as a registered nurse on Long Island when she decided against getting vaccinated.
And like tens of thousands of other unvaccinated healthcare workers across New York state, she has not gotten it back.
“I think it’s complete B.S.,” Psomas told GreaterBayShore.com. “Because an athlete can get people to go to Mets and Yankees and basketball games. We were heroes in 2020, and now we are zeroes because we didn’t get a shot?”
For more than five years, Psomas worked as a registered nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip.
Then the pandemic hit.
Psomas went into overdrive.
Overnight shifts. Seven to eight patients a night.
She’s still not completely sure if she contracted COVID during that time.
“During the height? Not to my knowledge,” she said. “I did recently have blood work done and I have antibodies for COVID, so at some point I must have.”
Either way, when Gov. Kathy Hochul last fall expanded the state’s vaccine mandate to include hospital workers — whether they had already contracted COVID-19 or not — Psomas had her reservations.
“I had done my research but didn’t feel comfortable — for religious reasons, as well,” Psomas said. “I was back and forth about it, and then I made my decision.”
So Psomas wrote a religious exemption letter, which she said was originally accepted by the hospital, until the state Department of Health mandated that no one could be involved in bedside nursing or patient care who was unvaccinated — religious exemption or not.
“So the week before Thanksgiving of last year, I was told to either receive the shot by Monday or I’ll receive a two-week furlough and then be terminated,” she said. “After five-and-a-half years of service, I guess I didn’t really matter too much.”
November 17, 2021, was her last day as a registered nurse.
“Nursing is my passion. I’m not able to do my passion, which is bedside nursing, plus having health benefits. Everything went away,” she said.
New York State’s healthcare firings also worsened existing staffing shortages, putting an even heavier load on the vaccinated nurses who kept their shifts. Hospitals hired pricey travel and per diem “flex” nurses — who make upwards of $100 an hour — trying in vain to make up for the labor shortage.
The result takes a toll on patient care, as daily patient-to-nurse ratios routinely reach dangerously high levels.
And because of the high pay for travel and flex staff, hospital budgets have been stretched.
A spokesperson for Catholic Health, the nonprofit healthcare system that operates Good Samaritan Hospital, stressed the organization is “completely committed to the safety of our patients, and our employees who care for them.”
“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken every measure available to protect our staff, following the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Health Department,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“In keeping with our commitment to protect the health and safety of our patients, visitors, medical staff and employees, we continue to comply with the New York state vaccine mandate for all healthcare workers,” the statement continued.
Which brings us back to New York City’s sports and entertainment mandate exemption.
Last week, New York City Mayor Eric Adams officially lifted the private sector vaccination mandate for professional athletes and performers in local venues in New York.
Adams contended that making the athletes and performers exempt was important for the city’s economic recovery, saying “players attract people to the stadium.”
Psomas disagrees. She said, “With Mayor Adams saying athletes can still play without being vaxxed, it’s all political. Money talks.”
Now, she and many other Long Island healthcare professionals, along with more than 1,400 city employees who failed to comply with the vaccine mandates, are left wondering: What about us?
“Part of my job is to advocate for a patient if they don’t want a certain treatment, but for us, we have no choice?” Psomas asked. “But I don’t regret not getting it at all. That’s how strong my conviction and beliefs against it was.”
Feature image: AP Photo, Healthcare workers protest New York state orders forcing hospitals and long-term care facilities to ensure all healthcare workers be vaccinated. Credit: MPI999 / MediaPunch /IPX