A combination of the more-contagious delta variant and cold weather driving indoor gatherings has led to an average of 1,000 new infections a day and nearly 400 COVID-19 hospitalizations. (Getty Images)
This story was updated December 2, 2021 at noon to include new budget information from the state Department of Health and Human Services.
The governor and state health officials will ask the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee during a special meeting Thursday to expedite approval to spend nearly $90 million on their newest efforts fighting a COVID-19 surge that is sending infections and hospitalizations to record levels.
Those plans include health care “strike teams” in long-term care settings that would provide enough staff to open 30 to 50 hospital beds and financial incentives for nursing homes and rehabilitation centers to accept 30 more patients. Both would allow hospitals to transfer patients who no longer require hospital-level care to more appropriate settings.
Expedited approval to spend federal pandemic assistance will allow the state Department of Health and Human Services to move quickly, “on a moment’s notice,” without the typical weeks-long review process, Gov. Chris Sununu said at a Tuesday COVID-19 update. That would give the department similar authority to what it had under the state of emergency Sununu declared at the start of the pandemic.
“That nimbleness is what’s really needed when you see numbers skyrocket,” Sununu said. The request will also need the approval of the Executive Council, which could consider it as soon as next week.
A combination of the more-contagious delta variant and cold weather driving indoor gatherings has led to an average of 1,000 new infections a day and nearly 400 COVID-19 hospitalizations, a number that has led at least two hospitals to postpone elective procedures to preserve beds for emergencies.
Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette said the shortage of beds is forcing some New Hampshire hospitals to send patients out of state, to New York and Connecticut.
Shibinette said the state hopes to recruit people from out of state to staff the new strike teams, which will include nurses, nursing assistants, EMTs, and other medical. Sununu said members can earn $300 an hour, but the department later clarified that staffing agencies will receive that rate and determine salaries.
The financial incentives would be used two ways, Sununu said. Some of the money would cover care for individuals while their Medicaid eligibility is pending, eliminating providers’ financial risks. Other funding would be offered to rehabilitation centers to take nursing home patients at their standard treatment rates.
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