We Must Protect Our Healthcare Workers

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Speaker Pelosi,

I write today to urge the inclusion of substantial additional funding for America’s hospitals as we move forward on the next COVID-19 package, and to request that the bill also include language to maintain patient service levels and protect the healthcare workforce.

Hospitals in my district, and across the country, are confronting staggering fiscal realities resulting from this pandemic. They are faced with both significant cost increases in combatting COVID-19 and dramatic revenue declines as elective procedures have been cancelled and other revenue streams have been impacted by efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Although hospital admissions are just starting to spike in my district, our hospitals are already reporting serious financial distress. One hospital system laid off hundreds of employees this week and another reported yesterday that it expects to suffer unsustainable losses of $75 million in the next 13 weeks. Across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, hospital losses attributable to COVID-19 are expected to exceed $1.5 billion.

Factors contributing to the rapid expansion of costs in responding to COVID-19 include:

● A strained supply chain, which has resulted in ten-fold increases in the cost of necessary supplies such as personal protective equipment and drugs.

● The increasing need to cobble together funds for additional employee benefits, such as hazard pay and childcare, in order to maintain an adequate health care workforce.

● The realities of treating COVID-19, which require hospitals stand up new facilities, and provide more extensive and expensive care to a growing number of patients.

In addition to the concerns of our hospitals, I am also hearing from healthcare professionals and patient advocacy organizations that these financial constraints may cause the permanent shuttering of some healthcare facilities and layoffs of healthcare workers post-pandemic. This scenario would have dire consequences for accessibility of health care and the financial well-being of our entire community.

Of course, one of our greatest concerns is the fact that PPE shortages have led to shifting guidance from hospitals and the CDC about procedures and standards of care to protect health care workers. We need to ensure that additional funding adequately targets health care worker safety and is not just used to address hospitals’ bottom lines.

I was heartened to see your and Leader Schumer’s proposal for $100 billion of additional funding for hospitals, community health centers, and health systems. As expressed in this letter, these funds are desperately needed. I ask that you prioritize maintaining as large a pot of funds as possible as you negotiate this spending bill with the administration and Senate.

Additionally, in an effort to protect patients and healthcare workers, I ask that you include language stating that funding be prioritized for hospitals that meet the following requirements:

  1. The hospital can certify that they will maintain the same, or a similar level of patient services after the COVID-19 pandemic as they provided on, or before January 30, 2020 — the date the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the United States; and,
  2. The hospital can certify that they will maintain the same, or similar staffing by region post-COVID as employed on January 30, 2020.

Any hospital which commits to these requirements and subsequently does not meet these standards should be subject to a suitable penalty.

I appreciate your continued effort in fighting to secure adequate funding for hospitals in our communities and across the country, and I encourage you to adopt guidelines to protect future patients and the healthcare workforce.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Mary Gay Scanlon

Mary Gay Scanlon currently serves a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District.

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