Rural hospitals in Arizona ask federal government for COVID staffing help

The growing strain on Arizona hospitals caring for COVID-19 patients has prompted an urgent request for help from the federal government.

The state Department of Health Services received inquiries for additional staffing from seven hospitals earlier this month. The department ended up asking for 133 workers in total, according to documents the agency made available Thursday.

The official request form submitted Dec. 4 shows hospitals in Kingman, Bullhead City, Yuma, Douglas, Bisbee, Sierra Vista and Willcox are in need of nurses for COVID-19 care and emergency department support.

The request is still under federal review, Steve Elliott, a department spokesman, said in an email. Meanwhile, the state is continuing its own recruiting efforts.

“ADHS has recruited and paid for hundreds of nurses to help hospitals with staffing constraints. This effort continues,” Elliott said.

The request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency was first reported by local news outlets.

A spokeswoman for FEMA was not able to immediately comment when reached Thursday.

Arizona’s larger hospital chains have already sounded the alarm this week about being overwhelmed. Leaders of Phoenix-based Banner Health and Valleywise Health say the volume of patients is at its highest since the pandemic started. The rise in hospitalizations is due to COVID-19 as well as people who delayed treatment for other issues needing crucial care.

Hospitalizations statewide were at 2,683 as of Wednesday, according to Arizona’s coronavirus dashboard.

Meanwhile, it reported 2,911 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 20 additional deaths. The state has now seen 1,326,908 cases and 23,344 deaths since the pandemic started.

In other developments:

—The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday approved an emergency request for $65,000 to spend on a 16-foot (4.9 meter) refrigerated mobile morgue. The money would come from American Rescue Plan Act funds. According to the request, the medical examiner’s office said the rate of virus-related deaths has far exceeded its refrigeration space.


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