Gov. Lee invokes emergency authority allowing National Guard to help during COVID-19 surge

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Hospitals are running out of space and staff to treat coronavirus patients in the Memphis-Shelby County area. The same situation is happening in other areas of the state as well.

Gov. Bill Lee invoked emergency authority Friday, allowing National Guard members to be sent to hospitals as nurses, COVID-19 testers or other staff members like ambulance drivers.

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He declared “a continuing state of emergency and major disaster in order to facilitate a targeted response to specific, persistent effects of COVID-19.”

According to Executive Order 68, guard members will only be given these duties if they have “appropriate training or skills” and the assignment is approved by Guard Adjutant General Jeff Holmes and state Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey.

FOX13 reached out to Governor Lee for a statement about why he passed this executive order and the potential impact this could have on the state.

“The governor is committed to reducing regulatory barriers to help Tennessee hospitals manage capacity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that’s what today’s executive order will help accomplish. This is in addition to $51 million from the Department of Health in hospital staffing assistance grants available to hospitals for them to hire additional workers,” a spokesperson said.

The following is a summary of Executive Order 68 from the governor’s office:

  • To relieve capacity strain on health care beds, resources, and staffing:
  • Permits trained National and State Guard personnel to conduct certain on-site healthcare support operations, including COVID-19 testing, subject to authorization by the Tennessee Adjutant General and Commissioner of Health;
  • Expands the ability of the Commissioner of Health to approve a facility-specific plan of delegation submitted by a health care facility’s chief medical officer to permit licensed health care professionals to perform specific, additional tasks within hospitals and certain psychiatric or behavioral health facilities (Executive Order No. 67 previously authorized this for acute care hospital and emergency department settings);
  • Expands temporary, COVID-19-bed-related certificate of need waiver to include home health services;
  • Allows for registered nurses to delegate certain practical nursing tasks, including vaccine administration, to certified medical assistants under the supervision of the registered nurse;
  • Provides flexibility with respect to staffing nonemergency ambulance transport services;
  • Encourages health insurance carriers to provide equivalent reimbursement for in-home hospital care programs to facilitate additional hospital bed capacity;
  • Allows persons enrolled in a graduate or doctoral speech language pathology or audiology program to obtain required supervised practicum/internship hours using telehealth technology, to ensure the availability of such services and in light of the current difficulty of obtaining such hours via an in-person practicum/internship;

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