Kansas Academy of Physician Assistants

Kelly issues executive order to ease hospital burden

Posted 18 days ago

This announcement has 2 attachments:

As reported by the Sunflower State Journal

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly on Thursday declared a new short-term emergency, signing executive orders aimed at relieving hospitals and nursing homes struggling with staffing shortages as COVID-19 rages again with the spread of a new variant.

Kelly declared a 15-day emergency, clearing the way for executive orders that will give hospitals and nursing homes more flexibility to use staffers to treat and test Kansans who are coming down with COVID-19 in increasing numbers.

“Our hospitals have sounded the alarm of the impact this surge is having on the facilities, their staff and their patients,” Kelly said.

“We needed to do this and we needed to do this as soon as we possibly could to alleviate the shortage,” she said.

Hospitals across the state are increasingly burdened as their own staffers are forced to quarantine as they come down with breakthrough COVID cases although they’ve been vaccinated.

“These quarantines are creating additional staffing shortages in hospitals and nursing homes, many of which are already under-staffed,” she said.

“We must be clear-eyed and honest about the threats we are facing.”

Kelly said one executive order allows physician assistants and advance practice nurses to order the collection of throat swabs for COVID-19, which eases the need for a physician’s order to undertake the testing.

It also allows nursing staff with an inactive or lapsed license to provide medical services appropriate to their education, training and experience levels, which increases the staffing available for patient care.

Students enrolled in programs to become healthcare professionals and emergency medical personnel in the military to volunteer at healthcare facilities.

It also would clear the way for healthcare professionals licensed in other jurisdictions to practice in Kansas.

The second executive order is similar in natures but applies to nursing homes.

It allows temporary aides – after receiving training – to provide direct staff care duties for residents and free up certified staff and nurses to provide a higher level of care.

The second order also assist facilities by giving them the flexibility with staff to quickly establish isolation units to quarantine residents to control and reduce the risk of a COVID outbreak.

The emergency order is intended to be a stop gap until the Legislature returns next week and has a chance to codify the executive orders into law through the end of March.

The executive orders must still be approved by the legislative leaders who serve on the Legislative Coordinating Council within 24 hours.

“We have been advised of the staffing shortages and increased hospitalizations that our healthcare system is currently facing and believe this order may provide some temporary and necessary relief and flexibility,” House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. said in a statement.

“We support the dedicated workers on the frontlines of the healthcare system, however we do not and will not support shutting down businesses or government mandates,” he said.

“If the governor attempts to go beyond reducing burdensome regulations for the healthcare system, we will oppose those measures.”

Kelly said the executive orders issued on Thursday are not new and they reflect similar directives at the beginning of the pandemic.

“We’re responding to the workforce shortage the same way we did at the beginning,” Kelly told reporters.

The orders, she said, allows some health care workers who have certain skills set to practice outside their traditional scope of duties and free up other health staffers to deal with more complicates issues.

She stressed that the new orders were narrowly focused on hospitals and nursing homes to give them staffing flexibility to respond to the latest surge.

“We will not be issuing any sweeping mandates or closures,” she said.

Senate President Ty Masterson questioned the need for a statewide emergency orders, but believed the underlying directives would help healthcare facilities.

The executive orders relaxing regulations, he said, would be “helpful” for hospitals and nursing homes to address their staffing shortages.

“The Legislature will review and look to codify the changes in statute through the appropriate, transparent means immediately when we return,” Masterson said in a statement.

“However, it is important for Kansans to understand the Legislature will oppose any new mandates, shutdowns, or other restrictive measures.”

Meanwhile, Kelly tried to leave the public with a positive outlook

“The numbers right now are bad, but there is reason for optimism,” she said.

“Just as the evidence is clear that omicron is more transmissible, it is also clear that omicron’s symptoms are much milder than delta.

“As omicron becomes the dominant strain, it will mean more COVID-19 infections, but over time a significant reduction in hospitalizations and deaths.”