The American Hospital Association and American Nurses Association are urging Congress to provide $1 billion in initial supplemental emergency funding to support the preparedness and response needs of hospitals, health systems, physicians and nurses on the front lines of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The organizations sent the request in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The $1 billion requested is in addition to other emergency funding being considered by lawmakers, the organizations said. The House this week is expected to vote on billions in funding to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
The organizations also urged that supplemental funding not be offset by cutting other public health programs.
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WHY THIS MATTERS
There are now two reported deaths in the United States from the coronavirus. Both were men living in a nursing home in King County in Washington State.
The virus has been confirmed in at least 12 states, with 86 cases reported. The news has caused anxiety among citizens and the stock market and concern about whether the United States is prepared for a rapid spread of COVID-19.
Direct Relief, a non-profit organization based in California, has committed an initial $2 million in emergency funding to support the fight in the U.S. The funds are being allocated to bolster inventories of preventive and critical-care equipment and supplies, provide emergency financial support to nonprofit safety-net health providers and backstop public-health efforts conducted by state and local public-health agencies.
America's Health Insurance Plans said insurers are working directly with the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention and are tracking any symptoms and patterns discovered through data from electronic health records, phone calls and clinic visits.
THE LARGER TREND
There are now more than 89,000 confirmed coronavirus cases around the globe and over 3,000 reported deaths, with the majority in the Hubei Province of China, where the virus originated.
Front-line health workers are at highest risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus, Direct Relief said. Healthcare personnel made up 3.8% of confirmed cases in China.
National Nurses United, a union of more than 150,000 members, has said that current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines are insufficient and that hospitals are vulnerable to staffing shortages.
The single COVID-19 patient admitted to UC Davis Medical Center in California on February 19 led to the self-quarantine at home of at least 36 RNs and 88 other needed healthcare workers, Nurses United said.
A National Nurses United survey of more than 1,000 registered nurses across the country revealed: 27% said there is a plan in place to isolate a patient with a possible novel coronavirus infection; 47% report they don't know if there is a plan; 73% report that they have access to N95 respirators on their units; 47% report access to powered air purifying respirators on their units; 27% report their employer has sufficient personal protective equipment stock on hand to protect staff.
ON THE RECORD
"This supplemental emergency funding request from America's hospitals, health systems, physicians and nurses is in addition to all of the other COVID-19 preparedness and response efforts Congress is considering funding, including public health, vaccine development, military quarantining efforts, public health surveillance and testing," the AMA and ANA said. "Ensuring safe care for patients, protecting health care professionals providing patient care, and supporting the health and safety of communities demand the combined efforts of the public health system, front line health care providers, and federal, state and local governments."
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