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Pennsylvania Rolls Out 'Strike Team' To Ease Hospital Crunch

SELLERSVILLE, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania has deployed its first pandemic "strike team" of out-of-state health care workers to a suburban Philadelphia hospital under severe strain from COVID-19, the state's top health official announced Monday.

The team, which includes nurses and respiratory therapists, started Saturday night at Grand View Hospital in Sellersville. Workers will staff the overnight shift at the hospital for the next 14 days.

The state's Department of Health recently entered into a $75.5 million contract with General Healthcare Resources to supply health care workers for temporary assignment to hospitals in need of staffing assistance. The program opened last week and has received three such requests so far, said Acting Secretary of Health Keara Klinepeter.

"Workers are tired and they deserve a break, and so that's what we're really here to do," she said at a news conference at Grand View.

The highly transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus has spread rapidly across the state and the nation since last month, leading to record-shattering numbers of confirmed infections and hospitalizations. Many Pennsylvania hospitals are deluged with patients at the same time they are struggling with staffing shortages.

New cases and hospitalizations are down, but Klinepeter said the high number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients statewide — over 6,000 — still means "this is still an extraordinarily serious situation."

She could not say how many strike teams that GHR Healthcare would be able to deploy simultaneously, saying that depends on how many workers a particular hospital requests. Klinepeter said the state would seek reimbursement through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The state-coordinated strike teams are separate from a federal initiative that sent three health care teams of military service members to Scranton Regional Hospital and WellSpan York this month. Those teams will be in place until early March.

(Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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