Since last Thursday, the status of COVID-19, and the combined health care response, has changed significantly. The World Health Organization is now classifying the outbreak as a pandemic. We, like you, are working hard to stay on top of the information and resources being distributed. I wanted to use this column as an opportunity to share several updates around COVID-19.
WSHA has created a COVID-19 case tracker to consolidate information on the number of confirmed cases in Washington. We also created a Hospital Response to COVID-19 page on our website, which includes fact sheets, information on what the public needs to know and additional resources. Both are publicly accessible and being updated daily.
WSHA also partnered with the Oregon Association of Hospitals & Health Systems to advocate on a federal level in response to COVID-19. We wrote a letter to our Congresspeople asking for flexibility to create capacity to care for people across the state.
A positive development is that the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) is officially supporting activation of emergency health care providers for responding to COVID-19. Health care practitioners who are licensed in another state may now practice in Washington without obtaining a Washington license to respond to COVID-19.
These emergency volunteers will be essential in expanding our health care workforce in Washington. This is possible under the Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioner Act (RCW 70.15.050). This is something WSHA advocated for on behalf of our members – asking DOH to recognize this law and provide guidance to ensure that qualified workers are able to assist in caring for Washington patients. In particular, this should expand resources for virtual care.
Please help us raise awareness of a new access to care opportunity. The Washington Health Benefit Exchange has announced a limited-time special enrollment period for Washington residents who are uninsured but may be seeking health care during the COVID-19 response.
Finally, we have some good news. Hospitals in Western Washington are now beginning to discharge patients with COVID-19 who were sick enough to be hospitalized and are now well enough to go home. I am celebrating these hospitals’ lifesaving care in the midst of crisis.