For Maryland, medical worker shortage may be top concern as coronavirus spreads

There have been concerns about possible shortages of hospital beds and protective gear during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the biggest concern in Maryland may be not having enough medical workers.

“Staffing might be more of a constraint than beds and supportive equipment,” said Bob Atlas, president and CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association. The group represents all of the state’s hospitals.

Among options being considered to address the potential staffing problem include allowing retired clinicians to come back to work without having to re-credential their licenses and expanding the role of emergency medical service personnel.

When it comes to adding hospital capacity, two recently closed facilities could be pressed back into service: Laurel Regional Hospital and Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park.

“Now they don’t have beds in them and they don’t have staff, but we are looking at the plans necessary to get them back online,” Atlas said.

Existing hospital beds have been freed up by canceling many elective surgical procedures and moving patients to other facilities, such as nursing homes.

As for the protective gear, such as masks, “I don’t want to say it’s in short supply right now, but we’re worried about the potential for short supply,” Atlas said, adding that hospitals have been looking to get equipment from “nontraditional sources,” such as construction companies, veterinary clinics and dentists’ offices.


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