Health Committee Moves to Help COVID-19 Besieged Hospitals

Responding to a COVID-19-beieged health system and an increasing hospital workforce shortage, the Assembly Health Committee this morning unanimously passed A-6155, which would extend the temporary authorization to practice for certain health care professionals approved by the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

From the bill:

“Specifically, the division issued waivers authorizing certain health care professionals licensed in other states and certain health care professionals who recently graduated from an accredited program, but who had not yet met the requirements for full licensure, to practice in New Jersey to assist with the State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Pursuant to P.L.2021, c.103 (C.26:13-32 et seq.) and Executive Order No. 244 of 2021, those temporary emergency licenses will expire on January 11, 2021.”

Assembly Health Committee Chairman Herb Conaway (D-7) said New Jersey’s hospital system continues to absorb new COVID cases of upper respiratory driven illness by mostly unvaccinated patients. “Death rates are going up,” said Conaway. “It’s going to be worse than it’s shaping up to be. We’re not at the peak.”

Neil Eicher, vice president Government Relations and Policy for the New Jersey Hospital Association, said the strain on hospitals right now, and especially hospital personnel, is worse than the first wave of COVID in 2020.

“We see this getting worse as the surge continues ,” Eicher said.

The waivers for healthcare facilities gives “us more time to staff appropriately,” he noted.

Eicher and others specifically cited the work force shortage requiring, for example, the certification of temporary nursing aides.

“The work force shortage is the number one concern expressed by our members,” he said.

John Indyk of the Healthcare Association on New Jersey described a “very significant labor shortage; a worse position now than early in the pandemic because so many team members are out with COVID-19.”

“These waivers provide us flexibility,” Indyk said.

Conaway added, “Every day people are hearing about family members running afoul of this virus.”

He reminded people to wash hands, wear face masks, maintain social distancing and get vaccinated.

All members of the committee voted aye on the bill.

From A-6155:

This bill provides that health care professionals authorized to practice under a temporary emergency reciprocal license on the effective date of the bill, as well as nurses, physician assistants, respiratory care therapists, pharmacists, and alcohol and drug counselors authorized to practice under a temporary emergency graduate license on the effective date of the bill, will be permitted to continuing practicing, under the same terms and conditions as applied to the temporary emergency license, for a period of 60 days following the end of the federal public health emergency declared in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nothing in the bill is be construed to prevent a health care professional practicing under a temporary emergency license from applying for or receiving full licensure in New Jersey, provided the professional otherwise meets the requirements for licensure; and nothing in the bill is to be construed to reinstate a temporary emergency license for any individual whose temporary emergency license was revoked by the division prior to the effective date of the bill.


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