Nebraska officials working to centralize hospital patient transfers

Gov. Ricketts declared a hospital staffing emergency Thursday
Gov. Ricketts and state officials on Wednesday announced plans to help with Nebraska's hospital staffing crisis.
Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 12:58 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Gov. Pete Ricketts on Wednesday said the state is working to manage hospital staffing issues across Nebraska, including again setting up a transfer center so that patients could be moved based on hospital availability.

Not quite a week after the governor declared a staffing emergency for Nebraska hospitals, Nebraska officials said the state was partnering with Nomi Health to assist with helping patients in need find a transfer to a hospital within the state that can provide care. That service is expected to be operational on Saturday.

“So the critical access hospitals have much of the capacity, that’s what Angie was talking about. The hospitals are full so that’s one of the reasons for the transfer center is to be able to balance out those needs,” said Gov. Ricketts.

Thursday, the governor announced 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.

He also put a directed health measure into effect Monday eliminating “D- and E-class” elective surgeries. The DHM expires at the end of September.

Area hospitals have again paused elective surgeries to preserve hospital capacity. Nebraska Medicine noted that the state’s nursing shortage was a factor in its decision.

Ricketts said Wednesday that there are 342 COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state. Douglas County reported having 178 COVID-19 patients on Wednesday.

Officials emphasized again Wednesday that the best way Nebraskans can help the situation is to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The number of positive cases in Nebraska rose this week even as testing numbers declined.

Angela Ling, incident commander for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, also asked Nebraskans to “be kind” and offer support to health care professionals, noting that hospital staff are being asked to do more and more than ever.

Ling said during the update that hospital capacity rates were higher than at last fall’s COVID-19 peak in November.

“This may be due to folks delaying their care over the past 18 months or increasing social environments. Regardless, hospitals are full,” she said.

The majority of hospitalizations are not COVID-19 patients, she said, but the higher number of hospitalizations — are of particular concern in rural areas, which are seeing especially high hospital capacity rates, many with little access to ICUs.

“We can have all the beds in the world, but if we don’t have staff, it means nothing,” Ling said.

Adding to the concern: Only a few of the hospitals can take kids, which is problematic as cases of RSV are on the rise.

“Normally this time of year, there are little to no RSV cases in the hospital,” she said.

Officials are also concerned about a potential increase in coming weeks of MIS-C, a condition that can manifest in youth recovering from COVID-19. About 46% of such cases require ICU care, Ling said.

The governor also doubled down on his claim that kids are no more at risk for COVID-19 than for flu. “That’s science,” he said.

Area doctors took issue with the comparison last week, noting long-lasting and persistent symptoms and residual issues associated with COVID-19 were of greater concern.

Also on Wednesday, Ricketts said the state wants doctors to prescribe monoclonal antibody treatments to COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Gary Anthone, chief medical officer with DHHS, said that two manmade synthesized antibodies manufacturers have been authorized by the FDA, and “are most effective when given early.”

Watch Wednesday’s news conference

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