Gov. Pete Ricketts has taken another step to try to ease the capacity issues at some of the state's hospitals.
Ricketts on Thursday announced he was issuing a new executive order aimed at providing more staffing for direct patient care.
The order temporarily suspends certain state statutes to allow health practitioners and administrators, including audiologists, alcohol and drug counselors, physical therapists and speech pathologists to be able to care for COVID-19 and other patients.
The order also allows those professionals to practice without a state license if they have a license from another state that's in good standing, and it also temporarily suspends some of the requirements for getting an initial license and reinstating an expired or lapsed license.
Ricketts said the order takes effect immediately and will be effective though the end of the year unless he acts to rescind it.
The executive order comes on top of earlier moves by Ricketts, including an executive order issued in August that loosened some licensing and continuing education requirements for nurses and a directed health measure that suspends any inpatient elective surgeries that can safely be postponed anywhere from four to 12 weeks.
Doctors, hospital administrators and others have said hospitals are often full, especially larger hospitals that provide specialized care, because of high patient numbers and difficulty finding enough staff.
As of Tuesday, there were 415 COVID-19 patients in the state's hospitals, including 111 in intensive care, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Overall, 23% of the state's regular hospital beds and 16% of ICU beds were open.
However, only 12% of regular beds and 10% of ICU beds were open on Tuesday in both Lancaster and Douglas counties.
Officials at Bryan Health have routinely mentioned being full and having patients waiting in its emergency departments until a bed opens up.
Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Director Pat Lopez said Tuesday that hospital capacity in Lincoln "remains a serious concern," despite a 40% drop in COVID-19 cases over the past month.
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