Gov. Ricketts declares hospital staffing emergency for Nebraska

DHM will limit elective surgeries; executive order will relax healthcare license requirements
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts on Thursday declared a hospital staffing emergency.
Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 1:20 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2021 at 3:20 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Gov. Pete Ricketts declared a staffing emergency for Nebraska hospitals Thursday afternoon.

The governor said he would be issuing an executive order to waive licensing requirements for hospitals in order to streamline authorization of credentials for retired or inactive healthcare professionals, deferring continuing education requirements, and suspending statutes around new healthcare providers who are seeking a license, among other provisions.

In addition, he said, he will put a directed health measure into effect Monday that limits “D- and E-class” elective surgeries. The DHM expires at the end of September.

Gov. Pete Ricketts declared a staffing emergency for Nebraska hospitals Thursday afternoon, Aug. 26, 2021.

Also on Thursday, Ricketts also said during the news conference that pediatric flu and COVID-19 deaths were similarly low, and that since kids weren’t required to wear masks during flu season before COVID-19 arrived, there was no need to require them to mask up for COVID-19 — even though he reiterated that masks were a good precaution to take.

Following the governor’s address, Dr. John Lowe, UNMC’s assistant vice chancellor with the National Quarantine Unit and Nebraska Biocontainment, took aim at Ricketts’ correlation between flu and COVID-19 for kids with a Twitter thread noting some significant concerns about pediatric cases and hospitalizations.

He followed up on Friday with some further details in this thread:

Ricketts’ news conference comes days after Nebraska Medicine, Methodist Health, and Bryan Health announced they would again be pausing elective surgeries to preserve hospital capacity. Nebraska Medicine also noted the state’s nursing shortage as a factor in its decision.

The governor also emphasized that he was against mask and vaccine mandates, and vaccine passports. Masking decisions for schools are best left to parents and school districts to work out amongst themselves, he said.

The state has been criticized for its recent recruiting efforts for nursing jobs at a veterans hospital in Bellevue and other health care employment listings highlighting that the positions do not require the employee to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccination requirements are becoming more common — and controversial — as several agencies and employers have been issuing COVID-19 vaccination requirement policies since the FDA approved the Pfizer vaccination on Monday.

Eight Nebraska healthcare systems announced their vaccination requirement earlier this month. A group gathered near UNMC on Monday afternoon to protest the decision. Critics say the mandate could cause a staff exodus, but leaders of the eight healthcare systems reported earlier this week that at least 80% of their staff had already been vaccinated.

In Texas on Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning state and local COVID-19 vaccination mandates even as Texas reported its highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic.

Watch Thursday’s news conference

Gov. Pete Ricketts held a news conference Thursday afternoon, Aug. 26, 2021, to discuss Nebraska hospital staffing.

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