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PA Sends First ‘Strike Team’ to Hospitals Facing Staff Shortages

by Emily Scott, Keystone State News Connection

Jan 26, 2022

Pennsylvania deployed its first state-directed healthcare “strike team” over the weekend to help support hospitals under the strain of staffing shortages in the Omicron-variant surge.

Ten registered nurses arrived Saturday at Grand View Health in Bucks County, where they will pitch in for up to 14 days.

Hospitals were notified last week by the state Department of Health of the process to request short-term staffing support from a strike team.

Keara Klinepeter, Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of health, said everyone in the community feels the impact when hospitals are dealing with workforce challenges exacerbated by COVID-19.

“Regardless of why a patient is admitted to the hospital, if they are in the hospital with COVID-19, they require extra care and special medical precautions that put additional strain on staff and hospital resources,” Klinepeter explained.

Strike-team members include physicians, advanced-practice providers, nurses and respiratory therapists. The state is focused on contracting with healthcare professionals from other states to avoid worsening the current local staff limitations.

Cynthia Westphal, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services at Grand View Health, said they are dispatching strike nurses to hospital departments with the greatest need, including the emergency room. Westphal said 14 days of extra support will be a big help for hospital staff.

“We had 45 inpatient COVIDs 10 days ago. We’re down to 32,” Westphal reported. “That’s a lot; that’s a third of our acute medical beds. So, we think by then, 14 days, we should be even lower; hopefully down to maybe 20 inpatients. And that way, we’ll have a lot more capacity throughout the entire organization.”

Pennsylvania currently averages 16,000 COVID cases a day, according to Johns Hopkins University. The state-directed strike teams are separate from federal teams deployed to hospitals in Scranton and York earlier this month, which will be in place through early March.

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