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Virginia Gov. Youngkin signs order addressing health care staffing issues

The Republican governor said the order would provide flexibility to health care facilities to combat COVID-19.

NORFOLK, Va. — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin's Executive Order 16 officially took effect on Monday, temporarily suspending some regulations for hospitals and healthcare facilities to help combat staffing issues.

Youngkin said the order would provide flexibility to hospitals, health systems, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, certified nursing facilities and other health care providers to combat COVID-19.

A previous order, Executive Order 11, was set to expire on Monday and was originally signed on Jan. 20.

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More than a dozen directives are listed in the order, including provisions for supporting telehealth, recognizing out-of-state health care workers and increasing bed capacity in hospitals.

“Any flexibility state government can provide in terms of staffing, capacity, flexibilities, who can administer vaccines. All those things are welcomed and helpful," said Julian Walker with the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA).

According to VHHA tracking, hospitalizations are down in the Commonwealth.

In late January, Virginia saw a peak of nearly 4,000 hospitalizations over a seven-day average. Those totals are almost three times that of what the state currently sees. 

But even though hospitalization and case rates are on a downward trend, Walker pointed out that the staffing issues still impact many Virginia hospitals, and that the renewed executive order eases some of that burden. 

“The numbers are reduced, but that said, a significant share of the patients who are hospitalized now are folks who need a higher level of care. ICU care and ventilator care, and that care requires additional resources, staffing," Walker said.

A spokesperson for Sentara Healthcare, one of the largest hospital systems in the Hampton Roads area, issued the following statement: 

Sentara Healthcare supports the extension of Executive Order 16 that provides flexibilities to hospitals combating COVID-19. In addition to COVID-19 patient care, we are also rescheduling non-urgent surgeries and procedures that were previously postponed during the height of the surge. This executive order is very helpful in supporting the staffing and capacity resources needed at this time.

The new order remains in effect until March 22.

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