News | Coronavirus

A White House plan to combat the omicron variant includes support for hospitals

News | Coronavirus

A White House plan to combat the omicron variant includes support for hospitals

The plan calls for the federal government to provide relief in the form of personnel and other resources to boost capacity.

The Biden administration announced several provisions to bolster hospitals as efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic enter a third calendar year.

In response to a budding surge fueled by the new omicron variant of the coronavirus, the administration will make 1,000 additional military clinicians and paramedics available to deploy to hospitals in January and February.

In addition, six emergency response teams totaling more than 100 personnel will deploy immediately to fortify hospital operations in Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, Vermont and Wisconsin (300 federal medical personnel previously were deployed to various parts of the country in November).

 “The healthcare workforce crisis is real and growing,” Chip Kahn, president and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, said in a written statement. “The federal reinforcements President Biden is unleashing — in the short term — will ensure that patients can continue to count on their hospitals during this latest surge and beyond.

“However, ultimately solving the worsening healthcare staffing shortage will require additional comprehensive workforce solutions.”

A small step toward a longer-term fix was announced Dec. 17, with CMS finalizing funding for 200 additional medical residency positions in 2023 for hospitals serving rural and underserved communities. The same number of slots will be added each year through 2027, for a total of 1,000.

“This is the largest increase in Medicare-funded residency slots in over 25 years,” CMS stated in a news release.

Efforts to reduce hospital overcrowding

With COVID-19 hospitalizations increasing by 12.5% and ICU cases by 8% over the last two weeks in what could portend a second consecutive winter spike, the administration is seeking to help hospitals boost capacity through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA planning teams will be mobilized “to work with every state and territory to assess hospital needs ahead of winter surges, and to start expanding hospital bed capacity now — with the federal government paying for all of it,” according to a White House fact sheet.

FEMA also will deploy ambulances and emergency medical teams to help transport patients between hospitals where necessary.

The Strategic National Stockpile also will be used as needed to send out masks, gloves, gowns and ventilators to states.

About the Author

Nick Hut

is a senior editor with HFMA, Westchester, Ill. (nhut@hfma.org).

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