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Wolf Administration Continues COVID-19 Support for Healthcare Workers, Hospitals and Patients

Acting Secretary of Health Keara Klinepeter today said two additional state-directed healthcare strike teams and another long-term care regional support team are providing requested assistance for hospitals and skilled nursing facilities caring for patients with COVID-19.

“The Wolf Administration continues to follow through on efforts initiated during the most recent surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations,” Klinepeter said. “While we are seeing cases and hospitalizations trending downward, we know that healthcare workers and hospitals are still caring for a high number of patients. We are providing assistance as it is requested, needed and available.” 

This week, clinical staff from state-directed healthcare strike teams are supporting staff at Geisinger Wyoming Valley and Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest. The teams are on a two-week deployment and vary in size and scope based on the daily needs of the facilities. They include registered nurses and respiratory therapists provided through General Healthcare Resources (GHR) under a 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 needed,” J. Edward Hartle, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Geisinger said. “As we continue to care for record numbers of patients in Luzerne County, we greatly appreciate the state’s staffing support for our teams at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.” 

“We are thankful 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, LVH–Hecktown Oaks campus and Vice President, Operations and Public Safety at 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 allow for more rapid discharge of patients from area hospitals, when clinically safe to do so, freeing additional acute care space to meet COVID demands. GHR will provide clinical staff, including RNs, LPNs and CNAs; Pennsylvania National Guard will provide non-clinical staffing to support the facility’s existing staff; and PEMA will assist in the coordination. 

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

These efforts are part of the Wolf Administration’s multi-layered initiative to support Pennsylvania’s healthcare staffing shortage amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

State-directed staffing assistance is separate from the federal strike teams currently deployed to hospitals in Scranton and York. Both teams are slated to conclude their work in early March.  

In addition, last month, Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation that appropriates $225 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to support the healthcare workforce in Pennsylvania. Additional COVID-19 response initiatives include: 

  • Overseeing additional free COVID-19 testing sites currently operating in Berks, Blair, Centre, Clinton, McKean, Somerset, Susquehanna, Washington and York counties through a partnership between the department and AMI Expeditionary Healthcare (AMI). 
  • 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. 

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