Home Health care provider $225 million in federal COVID-19 aid planned for Pennsylvania healthcare workers

$225 million in federal COVID-19 aid planned for Pennsylvania healthcare workers


(*This developing story will be updated)

Nurses, hospital staff and other frontline workers at Pennsylvania health care facilities could get a bonus in the coming months paid with federal dollars under a quiet deal struck between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled legislature.

the proposalrevealed in the Senate on Tuesday and expected to pass the House on Wednesday afternoon, will allocate $210 million in federal pandemic relief funds directly to hospitals and mental health treatment centers, including centers for drug treatment.

The bill also offers $15 million in student debt relief for nurses, an additional funding allocation to what was initially a $5 million program created by Wolf and legislative Democrats last year to provide up to $7,500 student loan forgiveness for nurses.

The program, which is accepting applications through March, has already received more than 6,000, Sen. Maria Collett, D-Montgomery, a former nurse who led the program, said Tuesday.

An additional $25 million in federal funds will be allocated to local EMS services, Republican lawmakers said. That money will be passed into a separate bill at a later date, bringing total spending to $250 million.

But billions more in unspent federal funds and excess tax revenue remain. How to use those dollars will lead to closed-door negotiations in the coming months as Wolf and the General Assembly negotiate a budget for the next fiscal year.

Funds intended for hospitals must be spent on retention and recruitment payments – made within three months and six months, respectively – to workers “involved in direct patient care activities, environmental services or services of clinical care”.

Under the agreement, executives, directors and doctors are not eligible for retention or recruitment payments. Cash payments cannot replace beneficiary salaries, and health systems must provide the state with a report on how the money was spent.

In one declaration released on Tuesday evening, Wolf applauded the legislation, saying it “is vitally important in supporting our most critical assets, our healthcare workers”.

He added: “They deserve this needed relief and our support at this time.”

Healthcare workers, especially nurseshave long a high turnover rate due to work stress, a problem that has only worsened amid the COVID-19 pandemic. These hospital staffing issues have also led to higher personnel coststhus affecting their results.

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Healthcare workers need our collective support at this time, and we are grateful to the General Assembly for recognizing the incredible challenges they continue to face at this time, two years into this pandemic. deadly, providing assistance when our healthcare heroes need it most,” said Janet Tomcavage, executive vice president and chief nursing officer at Geisinger, in a statement.

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The nurses also lobbied for the state to adopt regulations limiting the workload of nurses in hospitals, arguing that it could also reduce turnover. These efforts are sponsored by a majority of House lawmakers and a near majority in the Senate.

Senate Pro Tempore Chairman Jake Corman, R-Center, did not say whether such a policy could be included in future negotiations.

“We always try to be flexible in what we need to do to deal with the pandemic,” Corman said.

Finally, the bill creates a task force focused on the opioid epidemic and its effects on children, a crisis that worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 11-member group would be tasked with making recommendations to prevent infants exposed to the substance and improve outcomes for pregnant women and parents recovering from addiction.

Overall, Corman argued that the proposal showed that the General Assembly listened to the needs of voters.

“We represent all the hospitals; we wanted to step up,” he said.