Gov. Cuomo: retired medical workers, med school personnel to act as ‘reserve staff’ during COVID-19 outbreak

Coronavirus

An in-depth look at the state's emergency plan for COVID-19 coronavirus

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Governor Cuomo is calling on retired and former medical worker and medical school personnel to act as “reserve staff” in the event of a worsening COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

“We’re asking former doctors and nurses to reconnect with your old hospital, your old healthcare employer, to be on an on-call basis.”

The state’s plan — unveiled in a press conference Thursday — would involve former medical workers and medical personnel becoming active medical staff in the case that enough current medical staff become ill with COVID-19 that it causes a staffing shortage in hospitals and medical facilities. In the case that the virus causes hospitals to reach or exceed treatment capacity, the following steps could be put into place:

  • Elective surgeries could be cancelled if necessary to increase hospital capacity
  • Department of Health could accelerate staffing regulations
  • Former doctors and nurses could be asked to contact their former employer and be “on call” in case of emergency (particularly the anticipated emergency of staff shortage caused by hospital staff becoming infected with the virus). The state would accelerate their re-certification process in this event.
  • The state could reach out to medical schools to recruit students and school personnel to join “reserve staff”
  • National Guard members could be called upon
  • Temporary hospital facilities
  • Coordination between Upstate and Downstate hospitals to best accommodate patient volume
Governor Cuomo has given numerous press conferences over the last several weeks, updating the state on COVID-19 coronavirus.

“The Department of Health is accelerating regulations to get more nurses and personnel trained and put into different positions,” said Governor Cuomo in a press conference Thursday.

“Making sure you have enough staff, and reserve staff, is just as important as making sure you have enough facilities.”

“We’re asking former doctors and nurses to reconnect with your old hospital, your old healthcare employer, to be on an on-call basis,” said Cuomo. “When you’re talking about hospital systems, you’re talking about two components: you’re talking about facility capacity, and then you’re talking about the staffing capacity.” The Governor said one of the major lessons to be learned from studying the virus’ outbreak in other countries is that healthcare workers are far from immune. When healthcare workers get sick and are unable to report to work, the treatment capacity of already overwhelmed hospitals shrinks.

“Making sure you have enough staff, and reserve staff, is just as important as making sure you have enough facilities,” the Governor said.

“Plan for every contingency now, hopefully you don’t have to do any of it.”

Cuomo explained the logistics of restoring retired staff in an emergency. He said emergency measures will employed to assist with the process. “The Department of Health will accelerate your re-certification on an emergency basis, so if we need you, we’ll have a reserve workforce.”

The National Guard may also be asked to step in, said Cuomo. “The National Guard has a number of medics and medically-trained personnel, and EMTs,” said the Governor. “We are now identifying them, and identifying them for reserve staffing capacity also.”

Passenger Steven Smith, goes through a health screening after leaving the Grand Princess cruise ship in Oakland, Calif., Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Restless passengers on a coronavirus-struck cruise ship awaited their turn to disembark. By Tuesday night, Princess Cruises said about 1,400 of the 3,500 people on board had gotten off, and efforts were underway to move them to quarantine in their home countries or at military bases in California, Texas and Georgia. (Michele Smith via AP)

As an extra precaution, medical schools will also be contacted. “Medical schools we are contacting,” Cuomo said. “Again, for the same reason. To identify possible reserve healthcare professionals who we could call from a medical school if we wind up in a staffing shortage.”

The Governor also reminded everyone that these are hypothetical steps that will only be taken in an emergency situation. They are not guaranteed to occur. “This is all if, if, if, if, if” he said. “But that’s why it’s planning. Plan for every contingency now, hopefully you don’t have to do any of it.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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