Senate Approves Bills to Extend COVID-19 Emergency Measures to Ensure Staffing, Care

TRENTON – The Senate approved bills sponsored by Senator Joe Vitale, Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, and Senator Fred Madden that would extend at least in the near-term emergency-related provisions put in place during the state’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic, when the number of positive cases threatened to overwhelm New Jersey’s health care systems, infrastructure and its workers.

 

“Sustaining our state’s health care workforce and making sure our hospitals and emergency rooms remain staffed up in coming months as we continue to respond to COVID is critically important,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “Even before the pandemic, we were facing an imminent shortage of both physicians and nurses across the country. These bills will help ensure our health facilities are fully staffed as we continue to battle through the effects of the Omicron variant, as well as flu season and other COVID-related challenges.”

 

The first bill, S-4139, also sponsored by Senator Madden, would authorize the continued issuance of temporary emergency licenses to out-of-state and recently graduated health care workers through June, 30, 2022. The issuance of these emergency licenses was originally approved by the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety in response to the pandemic in March 2020.

 

“Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic and the Omicron variant continue to cause disruption to our lives, and the lives of our children and loved ones. We are still on emergency footing and need all hands on deck as the spread continues. Hospitals are one of our strongest lines of defense and must be kept at full force for the foreseeable future,” said Senator Madden (D-Camden/Gloucester).

 

The division issued waivers authorizing certain health care professionals licensed in other states, as well as professionals who had recently graduated from an accredited program but who had not yet sat for their exams, to practice in New Jersey to assist with the State’s emergency response to the pandemic. Health care professionals granted the temporary emergency licensure included medical doctors, nurses, physician assistants, respiratory care therapists, pharmacists, and alcohol and drug counselors.

 

The second bill, S-4140, would extend certain staffing waivers for basic life support vehicles, mobile intensive care units and specialty care transport units put in place by the Department of Health at the beginning of the pandemic. Under the bill, these waivers would be extended until January 1, 2023.

 

The bills were approved by the Senate by votes of 39-0, and 38-0, respectively.