What’s being done in Texas to increase the number of healthcare workers to treat COVID-19 patients?

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Retired doctors are answering the governor’s call to return to service if there’s a surge in COVID-19 patients overwhelming the hospital system.

Dr. David Fleeger, President of the Texas Medical Association. Austin has about 250 retired doctors who signed up to volunteer already.

The organization said Dallas County had about 400 volunteers.

“The main concern is that the models show that the number of patients in hospitals over two, three, four weeks is going to increase significantly,” Fleeger said.

Because of that worry, Governor Greg Abbott has waived many different requirements and regulations doctors, nurses and medics would normally have to meet before they can start working. That means doctors who retired less than two years ago can pretty easily come back to work. Fleeger said that would free up emergency room and intensive care unit doctors.

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For example, he said, “I’m a colorectal surgeon. I’m not going to run a ventilator, but I can make rounds on the floor for our hospitalists who will be in the intensive care unit. I can take care of issues within the emergency room to free those doctors up.”

According to Fleeger, the state is also looking at ways to get medical students who are close to graduating into the workforce.

“The responsibilities of doctors who have just graduated from medical school is going to be much less than most other doctors,” he said. “Those doctors will be doing more mundane chores that they can free up other doctors to go up a step up the ladder.”

Waivers for paramedics

For paramedics, Daniels Owens, Executive Director of Association of Texas EMS Professionals, explained, normally you have to be certified to practice medicine. With the waiver, those are qualified, but not yet certified, can work.

“But the checks and balance still exists for the medical director to say ‘Hey, I know you’re not certified, but I trust you and I trust that you are qualified to practice under my license,'” Owens said.

He said this waiver will likely help smaller agencies.

“I know four EMT students in a rural setting who were contacted yesterday to go through an advanced credentialing process. And they were all within weeks of finishing their paramedic program,” explained Owens.

For nursing students, more than half of their clinical experience is now done on a computer.

Katiuscia Koch, student at Austin Community College, said, she wants to get into nursing to help people.

“I really wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, and I have always been passionate for the human body and health promotion,” she said.

She said they’re using high-definition simulation exercises to complete their coursework.

“When it comes to our clinical rotations we’re doing the 12-13 hours a day like we’re doing at the hospital,” Koch said. “We’re doing one day at a time and things are developing. I’m very excited to be graduating for sure and be able to help the community.”

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