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Gov. Northam’s Emergency Declaration explained

Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 4:54 PM EST
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - Virginia Governor Ralph Northam put an emergency declaration into place Monday, Jan. 10, which is meant to help hospitals during this surge of COVID-19.

“The healthcare delivery system does not have limitless resources,” said Julian Walker, Virginia Hospital and Health Care Association’s Vice President of Communications.

The emergency declaration expands patient capacity, staffing and the availability of telehealth appointments.

“Obviously bed space is a concern, but perhaps even a more immediate concern is about staffing,” Walker said.

Patient capacity can’t be expanded if there’s no staff, so the emergency order intends to address those concerns. This order removes some requirements for healthcare workers.

“Individuals who are licensed in good standing as health care providers or clinical workers in other states have the ability to practice across state lines, practice in Virginia to treat patients,” Walker said.

Hospitals will be able to increase patient capacity, too. The process to increase capacity would normally include a licensure process, which can sometimes draw the process out. Now, those restrictions will be more lax.

“As part of this order, that licensure process, that formal process, is essentially temporarily relaxed to make it easier to bring more ‘licensed’ hospital beds into the system to increase treatment capacity,” said Walker.

Models suggest this surge hasn’t peaked yet, and experts say it might not peak until later this month.

“Our hospitals may continue to face these surge conditions for a matter of days if not weeks now,” Walker said.

Augusta Health said its ICU and respiratory care unites remain at or near capacity, and that this executive order provides some flexibility in staffing requirements and bed counts.

“Augusta Health is working on plans to implement the actions ordered to increase our inpatient bed capacity and availability and to provide for increased staffing in key outpatient areas such as our monoclonal antibody clinic,” officials said in an email.

Sentara Health officials say they’re appreciative of the order.

“This 30 day emergency order allows for more bed capacity and additional staffing support among other things. Any and all support is welcome as hospitals are now caring for more COVID-19 patients than ever before,” they said in an email.

The Commonwealth of Virginia currently has 3,845 people hospitalized with COVID-19, which is a one-day record for the state.

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