Hospitals in D.C. are asking the mayor to declare a health emergency as they are being stretched thin due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
According to a letter from the D.C. Hospital Association (DCHA), the strain on the District’s health care system is greater now than at any time since the pandemic began.
“We are struggling, and the pressures that we are dealing with is almost a perfect storm,” DCHA President and CEO Jacqueline Bowens said. “The pressures that we are dealing with are a perfect storm.”
“So, we’re actually having larger numbers of our staff be infected,” she said.
“Some hospitals are anywhere from 10 to 20-plus percentage of staff may be affected in different units,” she said.
The hospitals are asking not only for a state of emergency to be declared but to implement crisis standards of care, allowing hospitals to lower the ratio of staff to patients, continue the use of out-of-state medical licenses, and authorize liability protections.
“I don’t think it’s about turning any patients away,” Bowens said. “It’s about how do we work together with all aspects of our system of care to ensure that we have opportunities to redirect to different levels of care.”
“We don’t envision any denying of services,” she said.
Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration is considering whether or not to reinstate the health state of emergency.
“We are in conversations about what sort of supports that we can provide to the hospitals,” D.C. Department of Health Senior Deputy Director Patrick Ashley said. “We have not made any decisions about adding any other sort of liability protections or crisis standards of care at this time.”
DCHA is also asking for testing sites to be set up near hospitals to help relieve the strain on emergency rooms.
The District was under a health state of emergency in 2020 that included authorizing crisis standards of care, but that part of the emergency was rescinded in April.