Pennsylvania seeks more hospital beds, staff in COVID surge

The Associated Press

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania has begun working to boost the number of hospital beds and organize “strike teams” of extra health care workers for hospitals and nursing homes struggling with surging COVID-19-related caseloads and staffing shortages, Gov. Tom Wolf's office said Friday.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency are coordinating the undertaking after getting requests for help, Wolf’s office said.

The plans involve adding hospital beds within regions for 60 days to absorb patients from swamped hospitals. Additional medical support staff are to include physicians, respiratory therapists and registered nurses, Wolf's office said.

Kelly Shifflet, left, a civilian nurse manager at WellSpan Surgery and Rehabilitation Hospital, and U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Cassandra Dusseau, right, a clinical nurse assigned to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, review their patient’s medical chart while in support of COVID response operations at WellSpan Surgery and Rehabilitation Hospital in York, Pennsylvania, Jan. 3, 2022.

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Other staff will be sent directly to hospitals in need over the next three months. Certain nursing homes also will get additional beds, registered nurses and aides to allow hospitals in the area to more quickly discharge patients in need of long-term rehab or care.

Wolf's office gave no timelines as to when hospitals can expect the help.

The move comes after three federal “strike teams” went to Scranton Regional Hospital and WellSpan York in recent days to open 30 hospital beds for a month.

Hospitals and nursing homes statewide have been sounding the alarm in recent weeks as largely unvaccinated COVID-19 patients fill hospital beds.

That has sent some acute-care facilities over capacity, jammed some emergency rooms and forced nursing homes to stop accepting new residents.