Scranton, York to receive federal hospital support during COVID-19 winter surge

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)

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Health care systems in York and Scranton will receive federal support next week to increase acute care capacity, the Pennsylvania Department of Health said Wednesday.

Hospital beds statewide are filling fast with COVID-19 patients, and hospitals are reporting long wait times at emergency rooms.

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To help ease the strain, so-called “strike teams” will be deployed to Scranton Regional Hospital and WellSpan York to open about 30 additional acute care beds between the locations. In addition to increased medical and surgical beds for COVID-19 patients, support staff will collaborate with current hospital employees to address staffing issues.

EMS strike teams also will be deployed to York and Scranton to support increased hospital capacity. The teams will be available for 30 days — it is not yet known how many people will be involved, according to a release from the state.

On Dec. 15, Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration asked the federal government to help the hardest hit areas of Pennsylvania. The state also asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for 1 million rapid at-home COVID-19 tests and for an increase in the state’s allocation of monoclonal antibody treatments.

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“We continue to work closely across Pennsylvania’s health care community to ensure these federal resources are felt not only in the communities receiving the deployment, but commonwealth-wide,” Acting Health Secretary Keara Klinepeter in a statement.

“We must continue to support the health care community holistically, which means decreasing the number of people presenting at their local emergency departments while providing capacity to increase the number of patients discharged to other facilities when clinically appropriate.”

She added that the federal support alone won’t solve the state’s capacity issues. Getting more people vaccinated will help reduce hospital capacity, Klinepeter said.

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