West Virginia is sending out funding to help reimburse stressed hospitals for staffing issues during the coronavirus pandemic, a state health official said Thursday.
About 40 hospitals will receive $17 million in the next few days, Bill Crouch, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Resources, said at a news conference.
Many hospitals have received federal relief funding covering other parts of revenues lost during the pandemic. “That’s why we chose the staffing costs,” including overtime and staff retention efforts, Crouch said.
The first phase of the funding will help cover staffing costs from the pandemic’s surge in August. A second phase will cover staffing costs from September, Crouch said.
He said the total cost of the initiative could reach $35 million.
“We’re using a variety of funds, trying to maximize federal dollars, so that we can save our state dollars as much as possible as they’re needed,” Crouch said.
According to state health data, 870 people are currently hospitalized for COVID-19, down from the record of 1,012 on Sept. 24. Records also were set last month for the number of virus patients in hospital intensive care units and those on ventilators.
Some rural hospitals reached their critical bed capacities last month and health officials have pleaded with the public to avoid unnecessary emergency room visits to allow hospitals to focus their resources on treating COVID-19 patients.
West Virginia Hospital Association President and CEO Jim Kaufman said the funding for staffing “will put West Virginia hospitals in the best possible position to directly support their health care workers while also ensuring all West Virginians receive the care they need.”