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‘That gives us more options’: Va. emergency doctors call on Governor for state of emergency

Published: Dec. 31, 2021 at 4:35 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - With rising COVID-19 case numbers across Virginia, emergency rooms are dealing with a rise in the number of people seeking help from hospitals.

The Virginia College of Emergency Physicians (VACEP) is calling on Gov. Ralph Northam to declare another state of emergency so hospitals can access additional resources to help with the influx of patients in those emergency departments.

“I worked every day this past week, and these were probably the worst shifts that I’ve worked during the pandemic, period,” said Dr. Todd Parker, President-elect of the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians.

Parker, who works in the Hampton Roads area, said the sheer volume of patients coming into emergency rooms is overwhelming.

This time last year, staff was mainly dealing with severe COVID-19 cases, but the last few weeks of 2021 were different.

“We’re still seeing that, but we also have the crushing background volume of all these other people who are coming in, which we didn’t have as much before,” Parker said.

It is why the group of emergency doctors is calling on the Governor to declare a state of emergency. The hope is to get health care leaders to access more resources.

“That gives us more options whether it be telehealth, off-site testing centers, whether it be conducting testing in the parking lot of the ERs, etc.,” Parker said. “There are a number of things we can’t do under normal circumstances.”

The VACEP also said the following could happen under a declaration:

  • Allow the Commonwealth to provide disaster funding and access federal dollars to support the response and increase staffing levels
  • Allow emergency departments and hospitals to enact protocols to more efficiently evaluate or treat patients (such as using telehealth or providing care outside the walls of an ED)
  • Help emergency departments allocate scarce resources more appropriately

Access to COVID-19 testing is in high demand. According to Parker, some patients take trips to the emergency room just to get a COVID-19 test.

“We see the problems and disparities of access to healthcare,” he added. “We are the health care providers who provide the safety net for Virginians.”

Meanwhile, with students scheduled to return to school next week, three Virginia Congresswomen - U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07), Jennifer Wexton (D-VA-10), and Elaine Luria (D-VA-02) - sent a letter to Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin calling for him to expand Virginia’s “Test to Stay” program.

This would utilize American Rescue Plan funds to increase testing access among students and staff to keep schools open.

A spokesperson for Youngkin’s office said they have received the letter and are reviewing it.

“The state is flushed with money right now, and they need to be putting resources out there so that patients have access to care, access to tests, and don’t have to turn to emergency departments as the only place they can go,” Parker said.

NBC12 reached out to the Governor’s Office on Friday about the request for a state of emergency. While a spokesperson would not directly comment on it, we were told there’s no news today.

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