Wolf administration continues COVID-19 support for healthcare workers, hospitals and patients

Acting Health Secretary Keara Klinepeter said today that two additional state-run Health Care Strike Teams and another Long-Term Care Regional Support Team are providing requested assistance to hospitals and to skilled nursing facilities caring for patients with COVID-19.

“The Wolf administration continues to pursue efforts initiated during the latest wave of hospitalizations for COVID-19,” Klinepeter said. “While we see a downward trend in cases and hospitalizations, we know that healthcare workers and hospitals are still caring for a high number of patients. We provide assistance as requested, needed and available.

This week, clinical staff from state-run health care strike teams are supporting staff at Geisinger Wyoming Valley and Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest. Teams are deployed over two weeks and vary in size and scope depending on daily facility needs. They include registered nurses and respiratory therapists provided through General Healthcare Resources (GHR) under contract with the Department of Health.

“Over the past two years of the pandemic, our dedicated teams have worked tirelessly to provide the care our communities need,” said J. Edward Hartle, MD, executive vice president and chief medical officer at Geisinger. “As we continue to care for record numbers of patients in Luzerne County, we greatly appreciate the state staff support for our teams at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.”

“We are grateful for this partnership with the state as we continue to care for COVID-19 and other patients and as hospitals and health networks across the country face staffing challenges.” , said Luis Puentes, president of the LVH-Hecktown Oaks campus and vice president, operations and public safety of the Lehigh Valley Health Network said. “We are also eternally grateful for the dedication and resilience of our staff throughout this pandemic.”

Additionally, this week a fifth regional skilled nursing facility support site opened at the Pleasant Valley Manor Nursing Home in Monroe County.

The facility will receive clinical and non-clinical support staff to enable faster discharge of patients from area hospitals, when clinically safe, freeing up additional acute care space to meet COVID demands. GHR will provide clinical staff including RNs, RPNs and CNAs; The Pennsylvania National Guard will provide non-clinical personnel to support the facility’s existing staff; and PEMA will help with coordination.

“The Department of Health is continuously working with hospitals to assess needs and provide resources to help ensure that hospitals and healthcare workers are not overwhelmed so that anyone in the community who needs care can get them,” Klinepeter said.

These efforts are part of the Wolf administration’s multi-level initiative to support Pennsylvania’s healthcare worker shortage amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state-led personnel aid is separate from the federal strike teams currently deployed to hospitals in Scranton and York. Both teams are expected to complete their work in early March.

Additionally, last month, Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation that allocates $225 million in federal funding for the US Bailout Act to support healthcare workers in Pennsylvania. Other COVID-19 response initiatives include:

  • Overseeing additional free COVID-19 testing sites currently operating in Berks, Blair, Central, Clinton, McKean, Somerset, Susquehanna, Washington, and York counties through a partnership between the department and AMI Expeditionary Healthcare (AMI).
  • Educate counties, municipalities, and health systems on federal reimbursement available to them for eligible COVID-related expenses, including activities such as setting up their own community testing sites.
  • Meeting with manufacturers to offer incentives to increase production of COVID-19 tests to meet growing demand from the private sector to require the public to produce negative COVID-19 tests for travel, public events, restaurants , etc

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