Gov. Mike Dunleavy, seen here at an Aug. 16, news conference, announced Thursday the state was taking steps to help Alaska’s hospitals deal with the strain of a spike in COVID-19 cases. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, seen here at an Aug. 16, news conference, announced Thursday the state was taking steps to help Alaska’s hospitals deal with the strain of a spike in COVID-19 cases. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file)

State expedites health care hiring process to help staff strained hospitals

Gov says vaccine is best tool, pushes back on mandate

Gov. Mike Dunleavy once again called on Alaskans to consider receiving a COVID-19 vaccine as Alaska’s hospitals are struggling with staffing, supplies and burnout issues as the number of cases continues to rise in the state.

In a news conference Thursday evening, Dunleavy said his administration was implementing certain measures to assist hospitals with issues they’re facing as the delta variant causes a spike in cases. Those measures include using state resources to procure medical supplies and issuing waivers to hasten the hiring of health care workers.

The state is expediting the process for licensed health care providers to work in licensed facilities, the governor’s office said in a release, and the Department of Health and Social Services is implementing an expedited background check process and waiver for licensed providers who are seeking to work in certain licensed facilities in Alaska such as hospitals.

“We don’t have as many people working at the hospital anymore, people are fatigued,” Dunleavy said. “What we’re finding is it’s making it difficult for the hospitals to serve everybody.”

Dunleavy said the vaccine is the best tool the state has for combating the virus, and strongly urged Alaskans to speak to a trusted health care providers about the vaccine. He pushed back strongly on the idea of vaccine mandates, saying the practice was an infringement of civil liberties.

Health officials have recently cautioned about the state’s health care infrastructure and some hospitals —including Bartlett Regional Hospital —have begun delaying certain surgeries requiring an inpatient stay in an effort to keep hospital beds open.

Public Health Director Heidi Hedberg said at the conference DHSS had recently restarted its weekly meetings with hospital representatives to better coordinate response to the virus.

“The research is showing that the vaccine helps dramatically,” Dunleavy said. “Most Alaskans know what needs to happen, that’s a discussion between them and their physician.”

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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