U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter Gaynor requesting information on how the agencies plan to manage increased stresses on Missouri’s healthcare and hospital systems as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Senator Hawley expressed concerns about potential hospital staffing shortages that could lead to restrictions on care, asking the agencies to consider contingency measures, such as deploying medical response teams to the state.
In light of these difficult circumstances, I would like to know what kinds of options HHS and FEMA are considering to address potential workforce shortages and stresses on Missouri’s healthcare system."Senator Josh Hawley
Read Senator Hawley’s full letter to Secretary Azar and Administrator Gaynor here or below.
Of note: According to the Missouri Hospital Association, Golden Valley Memorial Hospital is now fully open and operational.
March 19, 2020
The Honorable Alex Azar
Department of Health & Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20201
The Honorable Peter T. Gaynor
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C Street S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20472
Dear Secretary Azar and Administrator Gaynor,
As Missouri reports its first death due to COVID-19 (coronavirus) and the state begins implementing state-wide precautionary measures, I write to you both concerning preparations for staffing shortages and disruptions in the state’s healthcare and hospital systems.
The Golden Valley Memorial Hospital in Clinton, Missouri, is no longer accepting new patients after treating one with coronavirus. Springfield, Missouri, has a limited number of hospital beds and draws patients from a broad geographic area, raising concerns that space and care might be further restricted amid responses to coronavirus.
These circumstances must be seen in light of the already troubling trends for the state’s healthcare system. A report published by the Missouri Hospital Association noted that 32 rural counties in the state do not have licensed hospitals, requiring their residents to travel large distances. In 2014, 9% of the state’s licensed physicians practiced in rural areas, reflecting a 15% drop since 2011, and six rural hospitals have closed over the last five years (with three of those between 2018 and 2019).
In light of these difficult circumstances, I would like to know what kinds of options HHS and FEMA are considering to address potential workforce shortages and stresses on Missouri’s healthcare system. In particular, please let me know of any plans HHS and FEMA might have to deploy medical response teams, such as Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs) and/or the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, or other contingency measures to help augment the healthcare needs of Missouri’s communities.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I look forward to your response.
United States Senator