Northwell Health workers welcomed 46 nurses from across the country to North Shore LIJ Hospital in New Hyde Park. Northwell Health photo.
Nurses from Upstate New York and around the nation are providing some relief to Long Island hospital staff who face large numbers of patients in need of care, even as demand grows for portable oxygen tanks and hospital gowns.
 
Telehealth restrictions have been loosened and credentialing guidelines have been eased, allowing out-of-state nurses, physicians and others to practice in New York State.
 
“This alleviates one burden for the hospitals,” said Kevin Dahill, president and CEO of the Suburban Hospital Alliance.
 
Forty-six nurses from across the country have been placed by Cross Country Nurses, a staffing agency, at the Northwell Health System. Another 22 nurses from the Upstate University Hospital are now working alongside other nurses at Stony Brook University. And upstate hospitals and systems such as Cayuga Health entered into staff leasing arrangements with a New York City-based system, alleviating some of the strain on the workforce.
 
The New York State Department of Health meanwhile has assembled a volunteer pool of 80,000 healthcare workers who answered Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call to work in the state.
 
“Both hospitals and nursing homes throughout the state are able to draw from this pool, which is coordinated with the assistance of the Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS),” according to a written statement from the Suburban Hospital Alliance.
 
The state health department reviews licensing and credentialing of workers who come from out of state to work in New York. 
 
HANYS helped facilitate hospitals’ access to the pool, known as NYServes, and to bring in LinkedIn to assist in managing it. About 7,000 workers have been vetted by the state.
 
The Alliance, however, said, there “continues to be a demand for gowns and masks at the region’s hospitals.”
 
“We are hearing that gowns are in need,” according to Janine Logan, a spokeswoman for the Alliance. “With hospitals running at full capacity, staff are donning and doffing gowns at an accelerated pace. A shortage of impermeable isolation gowns has developed.”
 
Supply needs and availability shift with the patient population, caseload and demand from other parts of the country, according to the group.
 
There is also an increasing need for portable oxygen tanks as some COVID-19 patients eligible for discharge require oxygen to continue their recovery at home, the group added.
 
“Patients who experienced respiratory difficulties while in the hospital, but whose issues did not require the level of a ventilator, are now improving and recovering,” Logan said. “These individuals are discharged and sent home, but still need portable oxygen to continue their recovery.”
 
Discharges from hospitals are fueling portable oxygen needs and a need for the equipment to provide the oxygen. There is a limited number of suppliers of this equipment, and facilities need the same product.
 
The Alliance said hundreds of waivers have been approved by the state and the federal government to loosen restriction on hospitals and other healthcare providers, while  “meeting all quality and infection control standards and state and federal oversight requirements,” according to the Alliance.
 
New York State has set up a hospital coordination center to manage the needs of workers from out of state.
 
Cuomo also is using state-owned college dormitories for various purposes related to the pandemic.
 
The federal government’s coronavirus website and New York State Department of Health website provide additional information for healthcare providers and the public.
 
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