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Pennsylvania Seeks More Hospital Beds, Organizes 'Strike Teams' In COVID-19 Surge

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP/KDKA) — Pennsylvania has begun working to boost the number of hospital beds and organize "strike teams" of extra healthcare workers for hospitals and nursing homes struggling with surging COVID-19-related caseloads and staffing shortages, Gov. Tom Wolf's office said Friday.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency are coordinating the undertaking after getting requests for help, Wolf's office said.

The plans involve adding hospital beds within regions for 60 days to absorb patients from swamped hospitals. Additional medical support staff are to include physicians, respiratory therapists and registered nurses, Wolf's office said.

Other staff will be sent directly to hospitals in need over the next three months. Certain nursing homes also will get additional beds, registered nurses and aides to allow hospitals in the area to more quickly discharge patients in need of long-term rehab or care.

Wolf's office gave no timelines as to when hospitals can expect the help.

"I am committed to seeing the healthcare community through these difficult times," said Wolf in a news release. "We're organizing these support sites and strike teams in response to calls for help from the healthcare community. I will do everything in my power to continue supporting the healthcare heroes that have supported all of us since day one of this pandemic."

The move comes after three federal "strike teams" went to Scranton Regional Hospital and WellSpan York in recent days to open 30 hospital beds for a month.

Hospitals and nursing homes statewide have been sounding the alarm in recent weeks as largely unvaccinated COVID-19 patients fill hospital beds.

That has sent some acute-care facilities over capacity, jammed some emergency rooms and forced nursing homes to stop accepting new residents.

From Dec. 27 to Jan. 2, Pennsylvania averaged more than 18,000 cases a day and hospitalizations rose by more than 22%, the state Health Department said.

Acting Health Secretary Keara Klinepeter asked Pennsylvanians to also do their part to relieve the strain on the state's hospital systems.

"With targeted healthcare staffing support and communities rallied in support by wearing masks, getting vaccinated with boosters, and staying home when sick, we will come out of this with fewer losses. Let's unite against COVID, again," Klinepeter said in a press release.

(Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

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