‘We needed help... we’re happy it’s here’: Healthcare groups react to Northam’s emergency order

Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 6:42 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Many healthcare workers are breathing a sigh of relief – momentarily – after Governor Ralph Northam’s announcement of a 30-day State of Emergency to provide resources due to the influx of COVID-19 patients.

Over the last few months, several hospital groups have called on state leaders to allow more flexibility in accessing some of the resources now available under this state of emergency.

However, even with access to these resources, it is still going to take some time to see improvements.

“We have more patients and less staff and resources than ever before during this pandemic,” said Dr. Cameron Olderog, President of the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians.

Since later summer 2021, groups like the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA) and the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians (VACEP) have called on state leaders for more resources.

In August and December, the VHHA sent letters to the Virginia Department of Health outlining a need for more help.

Additionally, in December, the VACEP specifically called on Governor Northam to declare a state of emergency.

“We needed help and however that came, we’re happy it’s here now and really hope this will give a little bit of a break to some of the providers who have been stretched so thin,” Olderog said.

Gov. Northam’s 30-day emergency order would cover a number of things, including expanding opportunities for telehealth or virtual doctors’ visits and increase bed capacity for the influx of patients.

“We’re approaching 3,700 hospitalized COVID patients,” said Julian Walker, spokesman for VHHA.

The VHHA stated Monday, it does not count patients who come into the hospital for other reasons and later test positive for the coronavirus.

“We’re looking at people whose primary diagnosis and primary reason for being in the hospital is COVID-19,” Walker said.

However, Olderog said there is a caveat for being able to expand bed capacity.

“You can have all the beds you want but if you have nobody to take care of the patient, it doesn’t matter,” she explained.

It’s why the emergency order which also allows providers with active out-of-state licenses to practice in Virginia, is a game changer.

“Hopefully what we all think will happen is this will go away as quick as it came and then those providers will be able to go and help in other places as well,” Olderog said.

Health leaders anticipate this COVID-19 surge will peak either later this month or in early February.

Meanwhile, the VACEP urges Virginians to get vaccinated and boosted to help avoid having to go to the emergency departments.

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