Two months after the omicron variation of the coronavirus knocked hospitals with unvaccinated clients, Pennsylvanias Legislature all sent out fast-tracked legislation to Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday to help keep burned-out healthcare workers on board during a staffing crisis.
The bill licensed $225 million, mainly for hospitals to give workers retention and recruitment payments.
Of that, about $36 million will go to centers that offer inpatient behavioral health services.
Another $15 million will go to an oversubscribed program appealing nurses up to $7,500 in trainee loan-debt relief, although officials acknowledged that the money still will not satisfy all of the more than 8,000 applications it has actually received.
The cash is from federal pandemic relief signed by President Joe Biden last March.
The 14-day moving average of hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients hit an all-time high of above 7,000 in recent days. The surge in unvaccinated patients came throughout what the CEO of the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania called “the most serious health care staffing lack in current memory.”
Neither legislators or Wolf administration officials might estimate the number of health care workers will be qualified for a boost in pay. They said they negotiated the sum with supplier groups and firmly insisted the cash is appropriate, at least for the time being.
The cash is intended for staff who are involved in direct patient care, environmental services or medical care, and not for executives, contracted personnel or administrators.