WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – New federal rules allowing Medicare and Medicaid to pay for medical services outside of traditional hospitals and clinics could make more beds available to states struggling with the coronavirus.
President Donald Trump announced this week FEMA will build two field hospitals in Louisiana as the number of coronavirus cases there skyrockets. Louisiana is one of the states that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has put partial travel restrictions on. Visitors coming from the New Orleans area are being told they must quarantine for 14 days once they arrive in Florida.
As cases of coronavirus rise rapidly around the country, hospitals are hitting maximum capacity. But new temporary rules from the Trump Administration will help free up beds.
Coronavirus task force member Seema Verma says overwhelmed hospitals will be able to transfer patients who are not suffering from the virus to facilities like outpatient surgery centers.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) – a physician himself – says the centers also have a key resource his state and others desperately need.
“Some of these outpatient hospitals will have ventilators or anesthesia machines, which can function as a ventilator,” he said.
But members of Congress say the temporary federal rules also highlight another issue – a shortage of ICU nurses.
“We can build more ICU beds but staffing them is a challenge,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) said.
Sen. Kennedy says more states will have to look at loosening licensing requirements and asking former ICU nurses to come out of retirement.
Arkansas Congressman French Hill says states may also shorten training programs.
“We’ve talked about the new medical graduates that are not yet licensed, pressing them into service here this spring,” Hill (R-AR) said.
The changes are expected to boost capacity and save lives as the country waits for the virus to peak.
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