Staff Shortages Force New York Hospital to Close Emergency Room as Winter COVID Surge Looms

A hospital in Nassau County, New York, was forced to close its emergency department this week due to staffing shortages as a result of the state's COVID-19 vaccination requirement.

Mount Sinai South Nassau said on Monday that it would temporarily close the ER in Long Beach after all other options for staffing were exhausted. Thus, patients who are in need of emergency services will be directed to the hospital's main campus in Oceanside, located roughly five miles away. The travel time could take up to 25 minutes in traffic, according to WABC.

The hospital said that an ambulance will be stationed at the ER at all times for the duration of the closure, which will last up to four weeks, according to a press release shared with Newsweek. The closure could be expanded behind that time frame depending on updated staffing availability.

"We regret having to take this step but the safety of our patients is always our No. 1 priority," Mount Sinai South Nassau President Adhi Sharma said in a statement. "This will allow us to shift nursing staff to the Oceanside campus to ensure that we maintain adequate staffing at the Emergency Department at our main campus."

New York Hospital ER closed
Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in New York was forced to close its emergency department Monday amid staffing shortages. Here, a hospital employee looks on as the community holds a parade to honor the front line hospital employees May 13, 2020. TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

The staffing shortages came as a result of the state's vaccine mandate, which now requires the suspension of all staff working under temporary religious exemptions who have not shown proof of at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or a valid medical exemption.

The vaccine mandate was first issued by then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in August.

According to the hospital, 99 percent of Mount Sinai South Nassau employees are fully vaccinated, but the latest round of suspensions still created significant shortages. The emergency facility is the only one located in Long Beach and serves roughly 10,000 people each year, sparking fears that its closure could have a devastating impact on the community, WABC reported.

The closure also comes as COVID-19 cases are on the rise across New York. The state is now reporting a daily average of more than 6,000 new cases, up 56 percent in the last 14 days, according to The New York Times.

Nonetheless, Sharma stressed Monday that the hospital remains committed to serving its patients and that the closure would only be temporary.

"We are committed to serving residents of the barrier island," Sharma added. "This closure should not be interpreted as anything beyond what it is – a temporary measure designed to relieve current staffing challenges in our Emergency Department. Our nurses, physicians and support staff have been on the frontlines of the pandemic for more than 21 months. We will continue to be there for our patients."