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Hospitals, nursing homes warn of closures in Pennsylvania
Hospitals, nursing homes and child care centers are asking Pennsylvania state government for more money to avoid closures amid a surge of coronavirus-related demands on staffing and equipment, and Pennsylvania's corrections officers' union wants the prison system to stop all transfers of inmates.
The demands came as the new coronavirus continued to spread in Pennsylvania, with the state reporting more than 200 more cases and another death.
Meanwhile, more businesses are challenging Gov. Tom Wolf's order closing the physical locations of businesses determined to be "non-life-sustaining."
In the meantime, Wolf has ordered schools closed through at least April 6 and ordered 5.5 million people in the state's hardest-hit counties to stay home, other than going to work at a business that's still open or another errand involving health and safety.
Hospitals, nursing homes and child care centers are pushing for emergency aid from state lawmakers and Wolf to help keep them afloat during the pandemic, and warning of closures without it.
There is a "legitimate, credible threat" that some hospitals, without financial support from either the federal government or the state government, will close, said Andy Carter, president and CEO of the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania.
"It's the sheer scale of the COVID-19 outbreak unfolding now that has the healthcare community saying, 'we need government help,'" Carter said.
The fund would help hospitals build surge capacity, retrofit critical-care units for highly infectious COVID-19 patients, hire more clinicians, pay for housing, establish on-site childcare facilities for healthcare workers and purchase protective gear, Carter told reporters on a conference call.
He did not provide a dollar figure, but said "we know it's going to be an extraordinary amount to match the size of the potential surge of care that we will be providing."
Carter said hospitals are scrambling to obtain enough protective gear to meet demand. Some facilities could run out of masks and other equipment in a matter of days or even hours as they become flooded with COVID-19 patients, he said.
The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump last week, provides approximately $1.5 billion additional Medicaid dollars for Pennsylvania, nursing home organizations say.
Two nursing home associations, LeadingAge PA and the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, and labor unions that help staff the homes requested help getting protective equipment, a 3% increase in reimbursement rates and a minimum sum of $290 million to nursing homes in emergency aid.
They also asked for emergency aid to offer paid sick leave to all staff who have exhausted their sick leave benefits.
Child care advocates said more than $100 million is needed to make up for the tuition and co-pays that the centers aren't collecting, and pass a law protecting the centers from coronavirus-related lawsuits.
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