(The Center Square) – Georgia will spend $125 million to expand hospital staff and capacity, Gov. Brian Kemp said Monday.
The announcement comes after rural hospital leaders warned the governor about staff shortages as they deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Kemp said the state will double hospital staff and make 450 additional beds available.
"Virtually every hospital's most pressing issue was a lack of qualified staff to treat the patients coming through their doors, nurses, respiratory therapists, ICU personnel, just to name a few," Kemp said Monday during a news briefing at the state Capitol.
Kemp said the Georgia Department of Community Health previously earmarked $500 million for 1,300 additional health care workers to respond to the crisis through October. The agency now will increase staffing to 2,800 employees at 68 hospitals across the state, bringing the total spending to $625 million.
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, 88.1% of ICU beds and 83.5% of inpatient beds are in use statewide.
According to Kemp, hospitals leaders said 90% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state are unvaccinated. As a result, Georgia will close all state offices Sept. 3, the Friday before Labor Day, to encourage state workers to get vaccinated.
Despite increasing hospitalizations, Kemp reiterated he would not shut down businesses or mandate face coverings.
"Georgians know the risk of this virus, and they know we have the tools at our disposal to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death," Kemp said. "The most important thing for Georgians to do at this point, if you're not vaccinated, is to please talk to your doctor or medical professional or someone that you trust, that perhaps hasn't been vaccinated and make good health care decisions for you and your family."