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Bills would allow out-of-state medical workers to help relieve shortage

A team of surgeons work out of focus while you see the items on the surgical tray- a couple vials and clips and gauze. A gloved hand reaches for the clips.
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Michigan could soon allow licensed health care personnel from out of state to temporarily work in hospitals and clinics under a bill up for a vote Tuesday in the state Senate.

The Michigan Senate is expected to vote Tuesday on a bill to help relieve a health worker shortage by temporarily recognizing out-of-state professional licenses.

The health worker shortage created by COVID-19 is so dire, there’s probably no one thing that can fix it.

Republican Senator Curt VanderWall chairs the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee. He says every hospital system in the state is short-staffed and workers are stressed.

“They’re burning the candle at both ends,” he told Michigan Public Radio. “We’re just trying to help them a little but so they don’t burn out.”

His bill would recognize out-of-state licenses until the health care crisis has passed. Then, the previous licensing rules would be reinstated.

“Our hospital systems are overwhelmed. COVID patients are a big part of it,” he said. “Basically, what we’re trying to do is open up any avenue we can to allow health care professionals to help us through this situation brought on by COVID and the pandemic.”

The bill has bipartisan support and cleared the health policy committee unanimously. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has taken a neutral position on the bill. If it’s adopted by the Senate, the next stop would be the state House.

VanderWall says he’d like to have the bill sent to Governor Gretchen Whitmer before the Legislature’s winter break. If not, he says it will be a top priority when the Legislature reconvenes in 2022.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.