Eleven state Senate Republican leaders signed on to a letter Wednesday asking Gov. Jay Inslee to mobilize the National Guard to support hospitals overwhelmed by the COVID-19 delta variant.
The letter was signed by lawmakers including Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, and Senate Minority Leader Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia.
In the letter, Republican lawmakers also called on Inslee to utilize state coronavirus stimulus dollars to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates paid to nursing facilities and issue an executive order allowing all retired military medical personnel living in the state to return to practice to provide “relief to our overburdened hospital system and our dedicated health care workers.”
“With case counts and hospitalizations at a high mark during the pandemic, we commend you for requesting assistance from the federal government to assist our Washington hospitals struggling with staffing shortages and stretched capacity,” the letter read. “In addition to that effort, we urge you to take additional action outlined in this letter to help relieve our strained hospital system.”
Rural hospitals across the state have been overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients afflicted by the delta variant, as Washington state undergoes a fifth wave of the viral disease. More than 37,500 Washingtonians have been hospitalized since the start of the pandemic roughly 19 months ago.
According to Senate Republicans, National Guard members should be deployed to step in to assist overwhelmed hospital staff with “nonmedical duties.” Some should also be able to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to relieve staff to care for patients.
“To the extent possible, medically trained National Guard staff should also be deployed to help provide relief and support to our overworked and exhausted medical and nursing workforce,” Senate Republicans wrote.
Increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates paid to nursing facilities will also “free up critical beds that can be used to care for more patients across the state,” states the letter, noting the current rate is so low that the facilities are unable to accept patients discharged from hospitals, creating a backlog.
As of Oct. 8, it’s not known if Inslee’s office responded to Senate Republicans’ letter.