“We are extremely grateful for the continued efforts of healthcare workers on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 as the number of hospitalizations push healthcare facilities toward maximum capacity,” Acting Secretary Klinepeter said. “Everyone in the community who needs care is affected when hospitals are forced to deal with the unprecedented capacity and workforce-related challenges exacerbated by COVID-19.”
This is the first component of the Wolf Administration’s multi-layered initiative to support Pennsylvania’s healthcare staffing shortage amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The department notified hospitals last week of the process to request short-term staffing support strike teams. Requests for staffing assistance are accepted on a rolling basis. Evaluations to match requests with available resources will be conducted twice per week.
The department is contracting health care professionals through GHR Healthcare which is focusing its staff engagement and recruitment on healthcare professionals from outside of Pennsylvania to avoid heightening current staffing limitations within the state.
State strike team members, which may include physicians, advanced practice providers, nurses and respiratory therapists, provide short-term staffing assistance for seven to 14 days. Hospitals will be responsible for managing day-to-day work assignments for state strike team members.
“The intent is that these staff will fill in for a limited time while hospitals develop their own longer-term sustainable staffing solutions,” Klinepeter said, noting that staffing resources are scarce and will be prioritized to address the most acute needs and maximize system-wide impact.
This staffing assistance is separate from the federal strike teams deployed earlier this month to hospitals in Scranton and York. The administration was recently granted an extension for the federal strike teams. Both teams will be in place until the beginning of March.
Meanwhile, to encourage residents to avoid seeking COVID-19 tests at hospitals, the Wolf Administration is taking an active role in increasing testing capacity throughout the commonwealth, including:
- Overseeing nine additional free COVID-19 testing sites currently operating in Berks, Blair, Cambria, Centre, Clinton, Crawford, Greene, Mifflin, and Pike counties through a partnership between the department and AMI Expeditionary Healthcare (AMI).
- Ensuring in-person learning continues by offering K-12 school districts free weekly COVID-19 services at no cost to participating schools through the departments of Health and Education, in partnership with Concentric by Gingko Bioworks.
- Educating counties, municipalities, and health systems about the federal reimbursement available to them for eligible COVID-related expenses including activities such as setting up their own community-based testing sites.
- Meeting with manufacturers to offer incentives to increase production of COVID-19 tests to meet the growing demand from the private sector to require the public to produce negative COVID-19 tests for travel, public events, dining, and more.