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February 01, 2022

Pennsylvania sending resources to help overburdened health care workers in Philly region

The state has deployed a strike team to Crozer Health and is establishing a long-term care support site in Philadelphia

Government COVID-19
Pennsylvania hospitals COVID-19 Paul Brennan/Pixabay

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Pennsylvania remain nearly as high as ever.

A Delaware County health care system and a Philadelphia nursing home have been tapped to receive additional staffing support amid the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Pennsylvania.

Crozer Health in Delaware County has received a state-organized team of nurses and respiratory therapists to address staffing shortages caused by the omicron surge, the Pennsylvania Department of Health said Monday. The strike team was deployed last weekend.

Additionally, a long-term care support site will be established at the Springs at the Watermark in Philadelphia, a skilled nursing facility. It is one of four regional sites being created to ease the strain on hospitals and nursing homes. 

The strike team sent to Crozer Health is tasked with providing short-term staffing assistance for up to two weeks, according to the health department. The workers are being contracted out through General Healthcare Resources, the state said.

"We want to ensure hospitals and health care workers are ready to care for everyone who comes in now and we want hospitals to develop their own longer-term sustainable staffing solutions," acting Secretary of Health Keara Klinepeter said. "We know that staffing resources are scarce and will be prioritized to address the most acute needs and maximize system-wide impact."

Staffing shortages forced Crozer Health to suspend some patient services last month.

"As our dedicated staff continue to provide high-quality care for our patients, it is extremely meaningful for all of us to know that additional resources are on the way to get through this surge," Crozer Health CEO Peter Adamo said. 

The state recently deployed a strike team of nurses to Grand View Health in Bucks and Montgomery counties. Like Crozer, Grand View has been forced to suspend some services due to staffing shortages.

The Springs at the Watermark in Philadelphia will receive a team of clinical and nonclinical support staff to open roughly 30 beds for patients hospitalized with COVID-19. 

The site – and three others being established in Allegheny, Blair and Clairon counties – is expected to be operational within the next 10 days. Each site will remain in place for about three months. 

The support sites are designed to allow nearby hospitals to discharge patients more quickly, freeing up bed capacity to meet care needs. The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency are also involved in the effort. 

These resources are being deployed as COVID-19 hospitalizations in Pennsylvania remain nearly as high as ever, Klinepeter said.

There are 4,763 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, according to the state's dashboard. That includes 780 patients in intensive care units and nearly 500 on ventilators.

COVID-19 hospitalizations declined last week by nearly 13%, though the number of available adult and pediatric ICU beds rose slightly, according to the state.

Pennsylvania also has seen a slight decrease in its average daily COVID-19 infections, but the state is still experiencing high levels of coronavirus transmission, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Federal Emergency Management Agency strike teams of additional medical personnel have been deployed to overburdened hospitals in Scranton and York through March.

Pennsylvania also is providing $225 million in federal funding to hospitals and other facilities as part of an effort to support the recruitment and retention of health care workers amid large-scale staffing shortages.

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