Pennsylvania adding long-term care beds to ease COVID crunch

A critical care nurse administers an anti-viral medication to a COVID-positive patien

A critical care nurse administers an anti-viral medication to a COVID-positive patient at Kootenai Health regional medical center during response operations in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, on Sept. 6, 2021. (Michael H. Lehman/DVIDS U.S. Navy/via AP)

Pennsylvania is setting up four regional support sites with as many as 120 beds to help hospitals and nursing homes under strain from COVID-19, state officials said Monday.

The temporary sites will be located in existing skilled nursing facilities in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, as well as in Blair and Clarion counties, and will allow hospitals to more rapidly discharge patients in need of long-term care.

Pennsylvania nursing homes have been reporting dire staffing shortages that forced many of them to stop accepting new residents, which in turn has prevented hospitals jammed with COVID-19 patients from discharging patients who require skilled nursing care.

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Though pandemic-related hospitalizations are dropping in Pennsylvania, the state still has thousands of people in the hospital with COVID-19. Acting Secretary of Health Keara Klinepeter on Monday called it an “acute situation.”

“COVID-19 hospitalizations remain at historically high levels and healthcare workers need some support to get through this current surge,” she said.

General Healthcare Resources will supply clinical staff to the long-term-care support facilities under contract with the state, with workers to be recruited from outside Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania National Guard will provide non-clinical staffing. The support sites will be open about 90 days based on demand, officials said.

Separately, state-directed pandemic “strike teams” of health care workers have been deployed at two Philadelphia-area hospitals, while federal strike teams are working at hospitals in Scranton and York.

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