Governor Abbott Waives Certain Additional Regulations to Expand Healthcare Workforce in Texas

April 7, 2020 | Insights

Key Takeaways
  • On March 25, 2020, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced a temporary waiver of certain hospital rules and agency regulations aimed at increasing the number of COVID-19 patients that can be served in Texas.
  • Abbott also announced temporary waiver of certain regulations and fees for nursing licensing renewals to increase the nursing workforce.

By Kate Goodrich

– April 7, 2020

In addition to previous orders designed to increase the healthcare workforce in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott announced on April 5, 2020, that he has temporarily waived certain regulations to allow more medical professionals to assist with Texas’ COVID-19 response. Under this waiver, Physician Assistants (PA), Medical Physicists, Perfusionists, and Respiratory Care licensure candidates who have completed all other requirements may enter the workforce under a​n emergency license working under supervision prior to taking their final licensure examination. In addition, the candidates may undergo name-based background checks in lieu of fingerprint checks while fingerprint checks are unavailable due to the crisis.

The governor’s waiver also allows for more flexibility between physicians, the PAs, and Advance Practice Registered Nurses that they supervise, including allowing for prescriptive delegation agreements to be made orally to enable rapid deployment of those practitioners for the duration of this public health emergency.

This is the latest of the governor’s efforts to add to the number of healthcare employees in the state’s fight against Coronavirus. He has already taken several proactive steps, including allowing doctors to rejoin the workforce if they retired less than two years prior, waived certain licensing requirements for registered nurses and advance practice registered nurses, and fast-tracked licensing for out-of-state medical professionals.

– March 26, 2020

In an effort to meet Texas’ need for increased hospital capacity in the wake of COVID-19, Governor Greg Abbott announced on March 25, 2020, that he has temporarily waived certain hospital licensing rules. These actions allow certain facilities that have pending licenses or facilities that have been closed for no more than 36 months to open under existing hospital building licenses. The waivers also remove certain mileage restrictions, which will allow hospitals to operate additional facilities that are more than 30 miles away from the main licensed hospital.

Abbott also directed the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to waive certain regulatory requirements regarding facility license renewals. These waivers will allow general, special, and psychiatric hospitals, free-standing emergency medical facilities, and end-stage renal facilities to renew their license without submitting a fire marshal’s report. The facilities will still be required to update their records at a later date.

In his press release, Governor Abbott said:

“One of our top objectives is to ensure that COVID-19 patients in Texas who need a hospital bed will have access to a bed. There are healthcare facilities across the state that have either recently closed or have yet to receive a license, but are otherwise ideal locations to aid in our COVID-19 response. By waiving these rules, we can quickly bring many of these facilities online to help Texas communities maximize their hospital capacity and provide care to Texans in need.”

The governor simultaneously announced that he will waive certain nursing license renewal regulations and fees in an effort to reduce the barriers for nurses to be able to assist in combating the Coronavirus. He will authorize a six-month grace period for nurses with expired licenses, which will allow nurses who are otherwise in good standing to continue practicing and give them additional time to renew their licenses without added fees or penalties.

On March 22, 2020, Governor Abbott had issued an executive order aimed at increasing the healthcare system’s capacity to fight the spread of COVID-19. The order directed all licensed healthcare professionals and facilities to postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately, medically necessary to correct a serious medical condition or to preserve the life of a patient who without performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences or death, as determined by the patient’s physician. The order permitted procedures that, if performed in accordance with the commonly accepted standard of clinical practice, would not deplete the hospital capacity or the personal protective equipment needed to cope with COVID-19. The governor also suspended regulations to allow hospitals to treat more than one patient in a room. Both of these executive orders took effect immediately and will remain in effect and in full force until 11:59 p.m. on April 21, 2020, unless they are modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by the governor.

Previously, on March 21, 2020, the Governor’s office announced the temporary waiver of certain nursing licensing regulations at the request of the Texas Board of Nursing. The announced waivers extend graduate nurse and graduate vocational nurse practice permits up to six months, change the direct care clinical learning experience requirements for nursing students, and eliminate certain requirements related to the reactivation of licenses for inactive or retired nurses.

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Please note: This article and any resources presented on the JW Coronavirus Insights & Resources site are for informational purposes only, do not constitute legal or medical advice, and are not a substitute for legal advice from qualified counsel. The laws of other states and nations may be entirely different from what is described. Your use of these materials does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Jackson Walker. The facts and results of each case will vary, and no particular result can be guaranteed.

In This Story

Kate Goodrich
Governmental Affairs Consultant, Austin