Gov. Wolf Announces Efforts to Increase Statewide Hospital, Long-Term Care Capacity through Regional Support Sites, Strike Teams

January 07, 2022

Governor Tom Wolf today announced that the state is organizing, in coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), regional support sites for both hospitals and long-term care facilities, as well as strike teams to support hospitals facing staffing shortages.

“I am committed to seeing the healthcare community through these difficult times,” said Gov. Wolf. “We’re organizing these support sites and strike teams in response to calls for help from the healthcare community. I will do everything in my power to continue supporting the healthcare heroes that have supported all of us since day one of this pandemic.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) are coordinating the effort.

“While these efforts will relieve current strains on the healthcare system, we hope every Pennsylvanian will continue doing their part so that care is available when their loved ones need it,” said Acting Secretary of Health Keara Klinepeter. “With targeted healthcare staffing support and communities rallied in support by wearing masks, getting vaccinated with boosters, and staying home when sick, we will come out of this with fewer losses. Let’s unite against COVID, again.” 

These strike teams are the most recent action taken by the Wolf Administration to continue supporting Pennsylvania through COVID-19. In addition to these teams, FEMA has supported Gov. Wolf’s request for federal strike team deployment. Pennsylvania will seek reimbursement from FEMA for these efforts to support the healthcare system during COVID-19.

The Wolf Administration will be launching the following initiatives to support Pennsylvania’s healthcare staffing shortage amid the COVID-19 pandemic:

·       Critical capacity support by launching regional support sites for Pennsylvania hospitals suffering from a lack of beds or staffing to meet in-patient needs. Hospitals struggling to meet inpatient demands will have the opportunity to transfer patients to ​hospitals within these regional sites for care. Each regional site will have increased capacity for approximately 60 days beginning in February, supported by medical support staff including physicians, respiratory therapists, and registered nurses.  

·       Staffing support will be sent directly to hospitals from the Department of Health based on identified need. Staffing resources may include physicians, respiratory therapists, and registered nurses for short-term deployments over the next three months.

·       Expand long-term care capacity by launching regional sites to allow for more rapid discharge of patients by hospitals. Each site will increase the commonwealth’s capacity to support long-term care residents with additional medical staff including registered nurses and aides.

“Our agency’s role in supporting Pennsylvania through this surge is to coordinate resources and aid through the federal government,” said PEMA Director Randy Padfield. “As our FEMA-directed strike teams get to work this week, we will support the Department of Health as needed in deploying additional human capital to ease pain points across the commonwealth.”

Other recent actions include:

·        Supporting free COVID-19 testing sites in Berks, Blair, Centre, Delaware, Clinton, Luzerne, and Mifflin counties.

·       To support K-12 school districts and school-age families and ensure in-person learning continues, the Departments of Health and Education, in partnership with Concentric by Ginkgo Bioworks, provide free weekly COVID-19 testing services at no cost to participating schools.

·       To support communities and health systems, PEMA has been 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.

·       The Department of Community and Economic Development is 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.

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