HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP/WHTM) — In a war against COVID-19, healthcare workers are the front line soldiers and the fight has taken a toll.
“I think it’s safe to say all my coworkers would agree the exhaustion from the last 22 months is really, really catching up with us,” said Miranda Rhoads, a UPMC nurse.
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On Tuesday, Pennsylvania’s state Senate fast-tracked legislation to spend $225 million to help hospitals struggling to keep staff on board as the omicron variant of the coronavirus has packed hospitals with unvaccinated patients.
The bill has backing from Governor Tom Wolf and House leaders, and was expected to receive a final House vote Wednesday. The money is from federal pandemic relief signed by President Joe Biden last March.
“They’re the ones fighting day in and day out to treat the sick. They’re the ones comforting the grieving they’re the ones keeping all of us safe,” Gov. Wolf said.
Under the bill, $100 million will be distributed to acute-care hospitals on a per-bed basis, coming to about $2,800 per bed, according to an Appropriations Committee analysis.
Another $110 million will be distributed to hospitals that serve poorer and rural areas, hospitals with high proportions of Medicaid patients and facilities that provide inpatient behavioral health services, giving them an extra $4,400 per bed.
The money is intended for staff who are involved in direct patient care, environmental services or clinical care, and not for executives, contracted staff or administrators.
“We’ve not ignored, the tears, the long hours, the patients, being there for long amounts of time and sadly so many of those patients not ever making it back home to their families,” said State Representative Joanna McClinton (D), majority leader.
Bipartisan support of hospitals broke partisan gridlock and brought together Republicans and Democrats, the legislature and the governor.
“When it comes down to getting something done that needs to be done for the citizens of the Commonwealth we can come together we’re a big family and I’d love to see more of this. It’s good,” majority leader Senator Kim Ward (R).
Staff retention payments must be made within three months, and recruitment payments within six months.
The other $15 million will go to a state program begun during the pandemic that pays off student loans for nurses, up to $7,500 per person.
“Healthcare workers deserve far more than just our gratitude and a pat on the back. They deserve all the help we can give them,” Gov. Wolf said.
The check is not in the mail just yet, but officials say it will be to hospitals within 30 days. To see which hospitals across Pennsylvania are receiving funds, and how much, see below:
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