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Gov. Kay Ivey announces federal funds to hire traveling nurses for hospitals

Alabama on Thursday had 120 fewer ICU beds than patients who needed ICU care. COVID-19 continues to surge statewide.

Health care workers in a COVID-19 unit at UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. (VIA UAB)

Governor Kay Ivey on Friday announced the state would reallocate $12.3 million in federal COVID-19 aid to pay for additional travel nurses to aid in Alabama’s struggling hospitals, many of which continue to see record numbers of COVID-19 patients.

“I’m pleased to see more folks getting vaccinated, but we are still in the thick of COVID-19 and our hospitals are overwhelmed,” Ivey said in a statement. “In consideration of the current surge of the virus and the strain on our dedicated healthcare professionals, I have directed the $12.3 million of CARES Act funding be reallocated to recruit more trained staff to our nursing corps. Until our vaccination rates rise and our COVID-19 hospitalization rates fall, we will need the extra support these nurses provide.”

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said the state’s nursing shortage is the state’s most pressing need, according to Ivey’s office in a press release.  

“ADPH would like to express its gratitude to Governor Ivey and State Finance Director Poole for providing this support to Alabama hospitals, which are seeing unprecedented numbers of patients infected with Covid-19,” Harris said in a statement. “This funding comes at a crucial time and will make a tremendous difference in increasing the nursing workforce in our state.”

Alabama hospitals had 120 more patients needing ICU bed care than the state had formal ICU beds, according to the Alabama Hospital Association. The state had 2,838 hospitalized COVID-19 patients on Thursday, just 246 fewer than the state’s record high, set in January. Of those hospitalized on Thursday, 56 were children.

The unvaccinated accounted for 83 percent of all hospitalized COVID-19 patients statewide on Thursday. 

The $12.3 million reallocation of CARES Act funds were previously obligated but not reimbursed among the various approved expenditures, Ivey’s office said. 

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It was unclear whether the state’s nursing homes would also see any additional nursing staff through this reallocation of federal funds. Ivey’s office didn’t immediately answer questions on the matter Friday. The Alabama Nursing Home Association didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday. 

“The on-going coronavirus pandemic has presented struggles for many across the state, but perhaps no group has faced as many challenges or stood taller than the frontline medical workers in hospitals, clinics, and physicians’ offices across the state,” said Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon in a statement. “Our nurses are forced to set aside concerns and worries about their own health as they tend to the patients who are fighting a highly-contagious virus that has already taken so many from us.”

Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed said in a statement that the pandemic has created an unprecedented need for quality nurses at hospitals across the state.

“Alabama’s nurses, working on the front lines to save lives and care for those struggling with this virus, have been nothing short of heroic throughout this pandemic,” Reed said. “I have heard from leaders across our state – especially from those in harder hit areas – that this is a critical, much-needed resource. I am glad that these relief dollars will go towards alleviating some of the stress put on our hospital system and provide hospitalized Alabamians with the care they need.”

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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