Health care advocates urge state lawmakers to extend life-saving COVID waivers

Coronavirus in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Health care advocates want state lawmakers to take action before staffing shortages get worse. They say one way of doing that is by extending COVID-19 waivers that are set to expire at the end of the month. Advocates say the waivers have been a lifesaver and need to continue as long as health care workers continue to combat the pandemic.

During the height of the pandemic, the Pennsylvania Department of State issued waivers that eased some regulations on licensing for nurses and health care professionals.

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“Throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic, the workforce has been the number one issue,” president & CEO of Pennsylvania Health Care Association, Zach Shambert said.

Shamberg says some of the waivers allowed providers to bring in workers from out of state. Also, workers with expired licenses were able to immediately get back to work.

“These have allowed providers to put more and more folks, whether they’re from Pennsylvania or out of state, at resident bedsides and allowing us to bring folks to the front lines without jumping through weeks or months of regulatory hoops or bureaucratic red tape,” Shamberg said.

Other waivers allowed student nurses and even retired nurses to lend a hand.

The governor’s waivers increased the size of vaccinators who were able to get shots into arms,” government relations specialist at Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, Noah Logan said. “However, we have the booster shots potentially on the way and still 20% haven’t even gotten one-shot yet.”

“Nurses who have been through three rounds of COVID are tired, they’re burnt out, they’ve had enough, Betsy Snook, CEO of Pennsylvania State Nurses Association said. “We’ve heard from our members that some are leaving mid-shift and they’re saying we just can’t do it anymore.”

Snook says the situation could get worse if the waivers aren’t extended.

“We may be getting to the point now where there aren’t any beds available, but even if there are beds available, if there are no nurses available, patients will die and it will seriously impact patient care,” Snook said.

A House GOP spokesperson says lawmakers will take a look at the waivers when they return to session a week early.

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