(The Center Square) – Although state government cannot stop the coronavirus, there are several things that Gov. Tony Evers and top Republicans at the statehouse can do, according to the head of the Wisconsin Hospital Association.
WHA President Eric Borgerding wrote a letter Thursday to the governor and the legislative leaders that offers six suggestions to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“Wisconsin needs to do more,” Borgerding wrote. “We need you, the state’s top elected officials, to come together immediately with unified actions to slow demand for care by mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and to increase the capacity for care by making significant investments in our workforce and care sites and further streamlining regulatory policies.”
Borgerding is suggesting the state continue Wisconsin’s mask mandate and affirm that cities and counties have the power to enforce it. He also wants state government to free up money to help hospitals across the state cover the cost of hiring nurses to fill the state’s health care staffing shortage.
“Hospitals are taking every possible step to address their workforce needs, including hiring temporary agency/traveling staff which, when available, are two- to three times normal staffing costs,” Borderding said in his letter.
Evers has said he wants to send $105 million to hospitals to cover those costs.
Borgerding is also asking for more overflow hospitals, known as alternative care facilities, in other parts of the state.
“The most significant limitation on greater utilization of the West Allis ACF is the reluctance of patients to be transferred to a facility that for many is too far away from their home,” Borgerding said. “By opening additional/regional ACFs we can free up precious hospital capacity in other overwhelmed areas of the state so they can continue providing care to both COVID and non-COVD patients.”
Borgerding’s other suggestions include more contact tracing, more regulatory reforms, licensing changes to help get more healthcare workers into hospitals and clinics across the state.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he’s agreeable to some of those ideas.
“I agree with the Wisconsin Hospital Association that more must be done to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Wisconsin needs more COVID testing, contact tracers and other solutions to help ease the strain on our healthcare facilities, decrease the rate of transmission and ultimately save lives,” Voss said in a statement.
“Because my Assembly Republican colleagues and I are in continuous contact with WHA, local healthcare providers and public health officials, the issues brought forward in the letter do not come as a surprise. I look forward to partnering with WHA to address these important concerns.”