When California’s state of emergency ends on Feb. 28 after three years and nearly 100,000 COVID-19 deaths, it will — in essence — mark a new chapter for the pandemic. While the end of the state of emergency doesn’t necessarily mean the pandemic is over, the governor’s office believes it has the measures in place that will allow California to phase out this tool.
“California’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has prepared us for whatever comes next. As we move into this next phase, the infrastructure and processes we’ve invested in and built up will provide us the tools to manage any ups and downs in the future,” Health & Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in an October press statement. “While the threat of this virus is still real, our preparedness and collective work have helped turn this once crisis emergency into a manageable situation.”
But although the threat of COVID-19 may have diminished — at least for now — your hospitals will be dealing with the lasting impacts of the pandemic for the foreseeable future. Many of your hospitals’ finances are on shaky ground, the health care workforce has been decimated, and patient volumes are at all-time highs — just to name a few of the challenges you are facing.
And some hospitals may see new challenges that come with the termination of the state of the emergency — specifically, the end of a number of waivers that many hospitals may have utilized throughout the pandemic. This includes the space waiver, which allows hospitals to use space and beds as they need for patient care without prior approval from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). After Feb. 28, hospitals must submit a program flex request to CDPH if they want to use space in a different manner from statutory and regulatory requirements.
The workforce flexibilities granted by the state of emergency are among other emergency measures that will also end. This important tool has allowed hospitals to hire thousands of out-of-state workers who typically need to be licensed in California to practice. While bolstering the health care workforce remains a top priority for HASD&IC and the California Hospital Association, it will take time and money, and this flexibility has been vital to quickly securing much-needed hospital staff.
Please know that, as always, HASD&IC is here for you and your hospital. If you have questions about the waivers — or any other needs that we can help with — don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly.