NJ urgently needs more volunteer medical workers for COVID-19 crisis
With an increasing number of New Jersey residents being treated for COVID-19 in the hospital, medical facilities across the Garden State are continuing to work on capacity expansion.
FEMA-backed field hospitals are being constructed, recently closed hospitals and hospital wings are being re-opened, and officials are also looking at contingency plans that call for putting some non-COVID-19 patients in recovery in hotels and school dormitories.
At the same time, state officials continue their call to action for retired doctors, nurses and others with medical training to step forward and lend helping hands during the emergency. Volunteers can sign up online.
During New Jersey's daily novel coronavirus update in Trenton on Monday, state Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said as of last week, more than 5,000 help offers had already been received and “we’ve already identified those with licenses or medical personnel that could work in hospitals, in the field and in the alternate care sites.”
She said the records of volunteers with medical licenses are being reviewed by the state Department of Community Affairs “to make sure their license is not revoked for something that you would want to avoid having them come back into the workforce.”
Persichilli said as a master list of medical volunteers is being compiled, and “we’ve sorted them by north, central and south. There’s a priority where they would work. First would be the field hospitals — we’ll accept our first patients (Tuesday)."
“But we also want to help the hospitals who have opened up more bed spaces but do not have the staff," Persichilli said.
She noted there may be certain limitations for retired health care workers who are offering to come back and help take care of patients.
“Can they do a full eight-hour shift? Some of them are volunteering for four hours. How we manage all of that is the reason we’re bringing in three volunteers just to do that.”
She said a few agencies have also been contracted to help figure out staffing schedules and locations.
“It’s a big process, staffing coordination — it’s not an easy one, and we’re going to try to do it from north to south," Persichilli said.
When asked how many medical volunteers are needed, the commissioner responded “at this point we need everybody."
"I don’t have an exact number," she said. "We had staffed about 20,000 beds. We’re bringing up another 10,000 beds. Just simple math, we need a lot more.”