Governor Kay Ivey on Friday reallocated $12.3 million of the Coronavirus Relief Fund to secure qualified, out-of-state, travel nurses to work in Alabama hospitals in a temporary capacity.
“I’m pleased to see more folks getting vaccinated, but we are still in the thick of COVID-19 and our hospitals are overwhelmed,” Ivey said. “In consideration of the current surge of the virus and the strain on our dedicated healthcare professionals, I have directed the $12.3 million of CARES Act funding be reallocated to recruit more trained staff to our nursing corps. Until our vaccination rates rise and our COVID-19 hospitalization rates fall, we will need the extra support these nurses provide.”
In consultation with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris designated the nursing shortage Alabama’s most urgent need. ADPH will work with the Alabama Hospital Association to develop a process to recruit these travel nurses.
"ADPH would like to express its gratitude to Governor Ivey and State Finance Director Poole for providing this support to Alabama hospitals, which are seeing unprecedented numbers of patients infected with Covid-19” Dr. Harris said. “This funding comes at a crucial time and will make a tremendous difference in increasing the nursing workforce in our state."
The Alabama Hospital Association noted that a nursing shortage existed prior to the pandemic, and the shortage has only worsened in the past 18 months.
"The dedicated staff who continue to care for Alabamians with COVID-19 and those in need of other hospital services are simply overwhelmed and exhausted, and it’s time to send in some reinforcement. We are grateful to the Governor and other state leaders for making this happen," the AHA said in a statement Friday.
The association also pointed to the impact the staffing shortage and pandemic is having on hospitals: "Every hospital in our state needs support right now. The lack of ICU beds, negative 120 at last count, is a direct result of not having enough staff, and that’s a crisis that cannot continue. We will continue to monitor the situation and stay in close communication with the Governor’s office, Dr. Harris, and legislative leaders as the virus continues to impact our state’s citizens and healthcare system."
The $12.3 million reallocation is from CARES Act funds that were previously obligated but not reimbursed among the various approved expenditures.
The Alabama Legislative Leadership, House Speaker Mac McCutcheon and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Reed, also support Alabama hospitals thru the reallocation of CARES Act funding.
"The on-going coronavirus pandemic has presented struggles for many across the state, but perhaps no group has faced as many challenges or stood taller than the frontline medical workers in hospitals, clinics, and physicians' offices across the state,” Speaker Mac McCutcheon said. “Our nurses are forced to set aside concerns and worries about their own health as they tend to the patients who are fighting a highly-contagious virus that has already taken so many from us. It seems altogether fitting that Alabama is devoting a portion of its CARES Act dollars to a group that has demonstrated it cares the most - the nurses who provide aid to the sick and injured in the most remote rural communities and the largest urban centers alike."
“The coronavirus pandemic has created an unprecedented need for quality nurses at hospitals across our state. Alabama’s nurses, working on the front lines to save lives and care for those struggling with this virus, have been nothing short of heroic throughout this pandemic,” Reed said. “I have heard from leaders across our state – especially from those in harder hit areas – that this is a critical, much-needed resource. I am glad that these relief dollars will go towards alleviating some of the stress put on our hospital system and provide hospitalized Alabamians with the care they need.”
Alabama received approximately $1.9 billion of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) funding to respond to and mitigate COVID-19. Alabama Act 2020-199 designated:
- $300 million to reimburse state agencies for expenses directly related to the coronavirus outbreak;
- $250 million to reimburse counties and cities for coronavirus expenses;
- $250 million to deliver health care and related services to residents;
- $300 to support citizens, businesses, and non-profit and faith-based organizations impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
- $53 million for remote work and public access expenses incurred by state government, including the Legislature.
- $300 million for technology and infrastructure expenses related to remote learning;
- $200 million for reimbursement of costs to the Department of Corrections incurred because of the outbreak;
- $10 million to the reimbursement of costs to ensure access to courts during the pandemic;
- $5 million to reimburse the State General Fund for supplemental appropriations to the Alabama Department of Public Health.