DPH eases license rules for out-of-state health care workers
Citing concerns over a shortage of health-care professionals as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise, the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) has temporarily waived license requirements for out-of-state health care professionals, including those who provide mental health services.
The order by DPH Commissioner Manisha Juthani came on Dec. 22 as the state’s case positivity rate surged past 8% and amid the emergence of the new, rapidly spreading and highly contagious omicron variant. By Dec. 30, the state’s positivity rate soared past 20%, a record high, and hospitalizations closed in on last winter’s peak.
“This order offers some immediate relief to support Connecticut’s health care infrastructure by authorizing licensed health-care providers from other states to immediately work in Connecticut,” said Commissioner Juthani. “The professions authorized include those who provide critical mental health services which are in high demand.”
The suspension period is 60 days, and the order will not extend past Feb. 15 if the public health emergency is not extended, according to DPH.
In a Dec. 23 interview, Dr. Mark Marshall, vice president of medical affairs at Sharon Hospital, said the order will have little impact here.
In the event of a specific need, he said, “we can bring somebody over” to Sharon from within the Nuvance system — although the likelihood of that happening is slim due to staffing shortages everywhere, exacerbated by omicron.
Marshall estimated that one half of all employees currently out sick are out sick with COVID-19. “So, I think the likelihood of being able to pull from other facilities is low, because everyone is short on staff.”
The omicron variant, Marshall noted, is highly contagious and can invade the immune system in people already vaccinated and even those who have had the booster shots. But the silver lining, said the Sharon physician, is that vaccinated individuals are less likely to become seriously ill from the virus, which is why it is “absolutely essential” to get the jabs.