Ricketts Declares Hospital Staffing Emergency

Aug. 26, 2021, 5 p.m. ·

Governor Pete Ricketts
Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks at a press conference Thursday. (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)

Governor Pete Ricketts Thursday said he’s declaring a hospital staffing emergency and relaxing requirements to deal with a shortage of hospital workers. And he indicated restrictions on things like indoor gatherings and restaurants could come back, if COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise.

In a news conference, Ricketts said hospitalizations specifically for COVID stand at 337, far fewer than the 987 last November at the height of the pandemic. But with more people in the hospital for other reasons, only 25 percent of the state’s total hospital beds remain available, compared to 29 percent last November. So Ricketts said he would act.

“What I’m going to be doing is declaring a hospital staffing emergency in the state of Nebraska,” Ricketts said.

That means waiving certain licensing requirements, allowing retired or inactive nurses to go back to work, deferring continuing education requirements, suspending laws about new health care professionals getting a license to practice, and waiving requirements on the ratio of supervisors to practitioners. He also said he would bar elective surgeries that could be postponed for at least four weeks

The 337 people currently hospitalized for COVID-19 occupy about about 8 percent of the state’s total hospital beds, up from about 1 percent at the end of June and 3 percent at the end of July. This spring, 10 percent, or about 400 hospitalizations due to COVID, was the threshold to trigger certain restrictions, for example, on indoor gatherings. Ricketts indicated those could return.

“We’re going to continue to monitor the hospitalization situation…as I said. We’re thinking about it very symmetrically to earlier in the year when we came down out of our peak hospitalizations. And with regard to what happens as we go up, we’re thinking about it in the same sort of way but I’m not going to get into specifics about what those steps would be,” he said.

Phased Nebraska DHMs by Hospitalizations