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Governor Expands Medical Help to Hospitals Amid COVID Rise

In cooperation with FEMA, Pennsylvania will open regional support sites, staffed by doctors, respiratory therapists and nurses, to help hospitals and nursing homes that are at or nearing capacity with COVID-19 patients.

(TNS) - Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is expanding medical support for hospitals and nursing homes statewide in the face of a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

In cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the state will open regional support sites, staffed by doctors, respiratory therapists and nurses, to help hospitals and nursing homes that are at or nearing capacity with COVID-19 patients.

Also assisting will be the state Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. The expansion begins in February and will last about 60 days.

“We’re organizing these support sites and strike teams in response to calls for help from the health care community,” Mr. Wolf said in a statement Friday. “I will do everything in my power to continue supporting the health care heroes that have supported all of us since day one of this pandemic.”

Hospitals will get medical staffing help “based on identified need” over the next three months, the governor’s office said. Hospitals struggling with a surge in COVID-19 cases will be able to transfer patients within regional sites to ease overcrowding.

Details about the regional support sites, including where they would be located, were not immediately available.

Moreover, regional sites will be set up to expand long-term care capacity to allow faster discharge of recovering COVID-19 patients from hospitals.

The state will seek reimbursement for costs associated with the expansion from FEMA, the governor said.

The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania applauded the governor’s plan, saying that as of Monday, 37% of Pennsylvania hospitals were at 90% capacity or higher for staffed inpatient beds and 9% were at 100% capacity or above.

Moreover, 3% of Pennsylvania hospitals had both their ICU and inpatient staffed beds at or above capacity, the Harrisburg-based trade group said in a prepared statement.

The state Department of Health reported 24,825 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, down from a new one-day high of 30,395 cases Wednesday. There were 6,680 people hospitalized with the disease, including 1,071 people in intensive care units.

Military doctors, nurses and support personnel from the Air Force and Pennsylvania National Guard this week began helping ease patient overloads at hospitals in Lackawanna and York counties.

The 186-bed Commonwealth Health Regional Hospital of Scranton had 42 COVID-19 patients and its affiliate, Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, had 37 patients with COVID-19 on Friday, according to a spokeswoman. WellSpan Health’s eight Pennsylvania hospitals were caring for more than 450 people with COVID-19.

WellSpan York Hospital Chief Physician Officer Anthony Aquilina said the number of COVID-19 patients at WellSpan’s eight Eastern Pennsylvania hospitals had doubled in the last six weeks.

Ninety percent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients and 95% of the patients on breathing machines were unvaccinated, Dr. Aquilina said at a briefing on Thursday.

The 450 COVID-19 patients at WellSpan Health hospitals, Dr. Aquilina said, have been an “enormous, enormous burden.”

Kris B. Mamula : or 412-263-1699


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