by John R. Fischer
, Senior Reporter | March 02, 2020
The American Hospital Association and American Nurses Association are calling on Congress to provide $1 billion in supplemental funding for preparation and response efforts to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) epidemic.
The request comes amid reports that the U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote this week on a bill for funding to address the ongoing health crisis following days of talks among appropriators on a potential package to provide supplemental funding. Negotiators are banking on a package of between $6 billion and $8 billion, according to The Hill
“An adequately funded public health care workforce will be necessary to support a wide range of activities, including implementing quarantine, conducting testing and monitoring of patients under investigation, ensuring laboratory capacity for rapid diagnosis, and conducting public health surveillance activities to track the outbreak and inform response,” AHA president and CEO Richard Pollack and Loressa Cole, enterprise CEO of ANA, wrote in a letter to Congress
. “All efforts must be sufficiently funded in order to be successful in preparing, responding to and controlling this infectious disease outbreak.”
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The requested funding would be distributed to U.S. hospitals, health systems, physicians and nurses, for a number of purposes, say Pollack and Cole, including training staff on and implementing pandemic preparedness plans, addressing supply chain shortages, facilitating infection control, and expanding telemedicine and telehealth capabilities. Money would also be used to finance increased costs associated with higher staffing levels, construction of separate areas to screen and treat large numbers of persons, and housing and monitoring of patients who do not require hospitalization.
The White House last week requested $2.5 billion to address the crisis, with half as new funds and the rest collected from existing health programs, including $535 million for fighting Ebola. The amount was met with criticism by both Democrats and Republicans who deemed it too low. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D.-NY) requested $8.5 billion in funding.
“An important step that Congress must take is to ensure the government has the resources needed to combat this deadly virus and keep Americans safe. To that end, House appropriators are working to advance a strong emergency funding supplemental package that fully addresses the scale and seriousness of this public health crisis, which we hope to bring to the Floor next week,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a “Dear Colleague” letter on Saturday.