ANNAPOLIS — The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has created critical hospital staffing shortages in Maryland, state officials said Tuesday.
Dennis Schrader, who will soon take over as Maryland’s acting health secretary and has led the state health department’s surge operations, said a few thousand people will be needed.
“We’re looking at possibly 2,000 to 3,000 people to step into the roles over the next several weeks,” Schrader, who will take over for retiring Health Secretary Bobby Neall, said during a press conference at the State House in Annapolis.
Through a partnership with the health department and Maryland Hospital Association, the initiative aims to recruit those with clinical experience to help with COVID-19 treatment at hospitals, testing sites, vaccination clinics and nursing homes.
According to the website www.marylandmednow.com, specific areas of needed expertise include physicians, nursing, clinical, support staff and allied health.
Colleges and universities with students majoring in the medical or health care fields can assist staff and conduct procedures such as anti-septic techniques, administering shots and collecting test samples.
“There’s a great opportunity for colleges and universities to think through collectively on how to make sure students are brought into the response in helping combat the virus,” said Dr. David Marcozzi, COVID-19 incident commander at the University of Maryland Medical System and a senior medical adviser to the governor.
As the recruiting takes place, Gov. Larry Hogan also asked hospital to submit “patient surge plans” by Dec. 8 to expand hospital bed capacity by 10 percent if a hospital reaches 8,000 hospitalizations.
The health department reported Tuesday that hospitalizations statewide are at 1,583, an increase of 56 patients in the past 24-hour period. It’s the highest number of patients since 1,640 were hospitalized on May 10.
The state has reported at least 1,000 new coronavirus cases for 28 straight days. As of Tuesday, the figure stands at 201,135.
In terms of deaths, the statewide total increased by 30 people Tuesday to 4,516.
Hogan got a bit emotional when speaking of the state’s youngest fatality of the pandemic, a 1-year-old boy who died this week.
“Sadly, we have lost our youngest victim,” he said. “We are laser-focused in taking actions in an effort to prevent the overburdening of our health care system.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Linlene Chan, who worked as acting deputy secretary for public health services, will lead the state’s effort to distribute vaccinations.
Hogan said he was informed Tuesday the state would receive about 155,000 vaccine doses from Moderna and Pfizer once available.
“That’s a tiny fraction of what we need,” he said. “It covers half of our front-line health care workers. The good news is they have great vaccines and they’re years ahead of schedule. We’re going to get some relatively fast.”