Jan 11, 2022 - COVID

Arkansas hospitals get $50M to prep for next COVID surge

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Arkansas hospitals are trying to get ahead of an expected wave of COVID-19 patients.

What's happening: The Arkansas American Rescue Plan Act Steering Committee on Monday approved emergency spending of $50.1 million so 11 hospitals can increase capacity.

  • The money will support an additional 265 medical and ICU beds, meaning it will pay for outside caregivers, support staff and other related expenses.

The request came from the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and was presented by Secretary of Health José Romero, who also is a committee member.

Why it matters: Nearly two years into the pandemic, record numbers of Arkansans are testing positive for COVID-19, which continues to strain the state's health care system.

  • As of Monday, the ADH reported 1,068 people in Arkansas were hospitalized due to COVID-19, up 47% from a week earlier.
  • Hospitals in NWA were collectively caring for 117 COVID-19 patients Monday.

What they're saying: Romero pointed out that even though the Omicron variant seems to create milder infections, the overall volume of infections is up because so many Arkansans aren't fully vaccinated.

  • As the volume increases, so will the subset of people who need to be hospitalized.

Details: The grant will support hospitals across the state:

  • Baptist Health, Conway — $2.5 million for 28 beds, 28 days
  • Baptist Health, Van Buren — $4.4 million for 35 beds, 28 days
  • Conway Regional, Conway — $7.6 million for 34 beds, 45 days
  • CHI St. Vincent, Hot Springs — $6.7 million for 30 beds, 45 days
  • CHI St. Vincent, Little Rock — $6.7 million for 30 beds, 45 days
  • Mercy, Fort Smith — $3.6 million for 16 beds, 45 days
  • Mercy, Rogers — $4 million for 18 beds, 30 days
  • St. Bernards, Jonesboro — $2.5 million for 21 beds, 30 days
  • Unity Health, White County — $7.8 million for 35 beds, 45 days
  • Washington Regional Medical Center, Fayetteville — $1.4 million for 8 beds, 45 days
  • Arkansas Children's Hospital, Little Rock — $1.5 million for 10 beds, 30 days

Flashback: During the height of the Delta variant surge in August, the committee approved $37.7 million to support 157 beds and later that month another $18.2 million for 54 ICU beds.

Context: Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed the steering committee in May 2021 to make recommendations on the distribution of nearly $1.6 billion in ARPA funding. The money must be spent on one of eight criteria, including for public health.

  • Since all 11 hospitals are nonprofits, the state qualifies to be reimbursed the $50.1 million through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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