Alaska will bring nearly 500 health care workers from the Lower 48 to support strained hospitals


In the midst of a COVID-19 surge that has overwhelmed Alaska’s hospitals to disaster ranges, Alaska officers stated Wednesday that the state has signed a contract to carry almost 500 well being care staff from the Decrease 48 to offer some reduction.

The $87 million contract, signed Tuesday, with an organization referred to as DLH Options will carry 470 contracted well being care staff to amenities across the state starting subsequent week, Heidi Hedberg, public well being director with the Alaska Division of Well being and Social Providers, stated throughout a neighborhood briefing.

Wednesday’s announcement got here on the identical day that Alaska reported a report 1,251 new COVID-19 instances, and hospitals are persevering with to battle with a scarcity of staff as sources are stretched to their restrict.

The rollout will start Monday and can occur in phases to permit the employees to journey to Alaska, obtain emergency credentials, endure a background examine and prepare in fields together with cultural competence earlier than being deployed to hospitals within the state.

“We’re working very carefully with the hospital affiliation and their members to prioritize the place they go, and the place the best want is,” Hedberg stated.

The reduction comes at a second when Alaska’s well being care system is being stretched to its restrict.

[Alaska Gov. Dunleavy activates crisis standards of care for entire state to help COVID-overwhelmed hospitals]

Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Wednesday introduced that Alaska was implementing disaster requirements of take care of the whole state, a drastic step that alerts workers shortages and inflow of COVID-19 sufferers may make it inconceivable for some hospitals to deal with everybody.

In current months, a surge in virus instances and hospitalizations pushed by the extremely contagious delta variant have overwhelmed Alaska’s hospitals past any earlier surge, and lots of amenities have reported that staffing points are their high concern.

The state’s personnel request consists of 297 registered nurses, 114 licensed nurse assistants or affected person care techs, 15 respiratory therapists, 14 medical laboratory personnel, 12 surgical technicians, 11 social staff, two licensed sensible nurses, two radiology technicians and one doctor, Hedberg stated. Their contract interval is 90 days, with the choice for 3 30-day renewals after that.

In an announcement, the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing House Affiliation thanked the state for its “newest efforts in securing sources for our well being care system.”

“Our caregivers have endured unspeakable stress as they work to maintain us secure, and our well being care system has been examined in methods we by no means imagined doable … ASHNHA stands able to companion with DHSS and our well being care amenities for a fast, efficient deployment of reduction workers to the best want areas within the state,” the affiliation stated.

The group additionally referred to as on all Alaskans to “do their half” to guard heath care staff and hospital capability, together with getting vaccinated and carrying masks indoors in all public settings.

DLH Options was one of many contractors recognized by FEMA and the Normal Providers Administration to probably help well being care staff within the area.

Different states are additionally experiencing an acute well being care staffing scarcity, and Hedberg stated she was initially involved about how Alaska would discover staff contemplating these broader challenges.

She stated DLH workers reassured her that there was an “attract” to return work in Alaska, and that short-term contracts are sometimes extra engaging than long-term contracts.

“Loads of the nurses are literally leaving retirement, they usually’re enticed by coming to Alaska and dealing short-term,” Hedberg stated.

She stated the price of the contract and the brand new staff was “100% FEMA reimbursable.”

Hospitals within the state say that workers are burned out from over a yr and a half of working by a pandemic with little reduction, and that many have retired early, or left the state or occupation completely. COVID-19 sufferers additionally usually require extra advanced, staff-intensive care than different sufferers, which has put additional pressure on the system.

At Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, the place greater than 200 entry-level positions remained open, a extreme staffing scarcity prompted the ability to jot down a letter this week to borough officers requesting $4 million in order that wages might be elevated by $2-$3 per hour for “critically important” entry-level positions. The letter was signed by hospital CEO Shelley Ebenal and Jeff Cook dinner, chairman of the Basis Well being Companions board of administrators.

State officers on Wednesday introduced different actions being taken to handle the worsening pandemic state of affairs in Alaska.

The Board of Nursing has handed emergency rules decreasing the required variety of coaching hours for licensed nurse assistants to expedite the certification course of, and the state can also be working with the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing House Affiliation on ramping up recruitment for CNAs domestically.

Moreover, Alaska’s well being division is buying $2 million value of at-home fast testing kits to be distributed by colleges to households so youngsters might be examined earlier than coming to highschool. Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, stated that buy arose from a need to discover a strategy to hold youths at school and hold them wholesome, and the trouble will give attention to areas with excessive COVID-19 case charges and restricted testing choices.

The state can also be pursuing methods for emergency medical service suppliers in main inhabitants facilities to assist alleviate stress on hospitals by telemedicine, transfers to alternate well being care amenities and at-home checks, Hedberg stated.

“Our high precedence has been defending the well being care system,” she stated.