Texas Works to Address Healthcare Capacity and Workforce Shortage Issues in Wake of COVID-19

March 26, 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

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.

Meet Kate

Kate Goodrich is a governmental affairs consultant in the Austin office. She started her career as a federally registered lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and grew to become a senior advisor to legislators at the Texas Capitol. Kate’s background in state and federal government gives her an in-depth and practical knowledge of the legislative and appropriations processes. She is a respected member of the governmental affairs community and has forged deep relationships at the Capitol and beyond.

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