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Department of Health Deploys Additional Healthcare Strike Team to Help Relieve Strain on Healthcare Workers, Hospitals in Southeast

01/31/2022

Harrisburg, PA - Acting Secretary of Health Keara Klinepeter today said a state-directed healthcare strike team was deployed this weekend at Crozer Health facilities in the southeast region. The team included registered nurses and respiratory therapists provided through General Healthcare Services (GHR) under a contract with the Department of Health.    

“Across the state we are seeing the highest number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 since the pandemic began more than two years ago,” Klinepeter said. “The Wolf Administration is working simultaneously on a multilayered approach across the healthcare continuum to relieve the strain to ensure people who need care can get it.”  

“As our dedicated staff continue to provide high-quality care for our patients, it is extremely meaningful for all of us to know that additional resources are on the way to get through this surge,” Crozer Health CEO Peter Adamo said. “We appreciate the support from the Department of Health and Wolf Administration.”  

The department is contracting for health care professionals through GHR, which is focusing its staff engagement and recruitment on healthcare professionals from outside of Pennsylvania to avoid heightening current staffing limitations within the state.   

State strike team members, which may include physicians, advanced practice providers, nurses and respiratory therapists, provide short-term staffing assistance for seven to 14 days. Hospitals will be responsible for managing day-to-day work assignments for state strike team members.   

“I am pleased that we are able to authorize Crozer Health’s request for staffing assistance,” Klinepeter said. “We want to ensure hospitals and healthcare workers are ready to care for everyone who comes in now and we want hospitals to develop their own longer-term sustainable staffing solutions. We know that staffing resources are scarce and will be prioritized to address the most acute needs and maximize system-wide impact.”    

“We applaud and appreciate this temporary solution because the catastrophic staffing crisis we have in our hospitals and healthcare facilities could jeopardize our entire healthcare system and put our communities at risk,” said Matthew Yarnell, President of Service Employees International Union Healthcare Pennsylvania. “Deployment of the strike teams demonstrates the importance of tackling the staffing crisis and taking measures to lift the burden on our frontline nurses and caregivers. We look forward to working on longer-term solutions.” 

This staffing assistance is separate from the federal strike teams deployed to hospitals in Scranton and York and extended into March.   

Last week, Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation that appropriates $225 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to support the healthcare workforce in Pennsylvania. The bill and state-directed strike teams for hospitals are part of the multi-layered approach the Wolf Administration is taking to address and mitigate the current crisis in Pennsylvania. Additional initiatives include:  

  • Overseeing additional free COVID-19 testing sites currently operating in Berks, Blair, Cambria, Centre, Clinton, Fayette, Monroe, Somerset, and Venango counties through a partnership between the department and AMI Expeditionary Healthcare (AMI).  

  • Ensuring in-person learning continues by offering K-12 school districts free weekly COVID-19 services at no cost to participating schools through the departments of Health and Education, in partnership with Concentric by Gingko Bioworks.   

  • Educating counties, municipalities, and health systems about the federal reimbursement available to them for eligible COVID-related expenses including activities such as setting up their own community-based testing sites.    

  • Meeting with manufacturers to offer incentives to increase production of COVID-19 tests to meet the growing demand from the private sector to require the public to produce negative COVID-19 tests for travel, public events, dining, and more. 

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark O'Neill - ra-dhpressoffice@pa.gov

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