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Cooper signs order to boost hospital capacity, child care options

Posted April 8, 2020 9:44 p.m. EDT
Updated April 9, 2020 12:26 a.m. EDT

Testing and research

— Gov. Roy Cooper signed another wide-ranging executive order Wednesday, temporarily waiving restrictions on hospitals and other medical facilities as they plan for a surge in COVID-19 patients.

The order also waives regulations on child care facilities in an effort to reopen enough of them to care for the children of essential workers, gives health care workers expanded immunity from lawsuits and opens a door to putting more medical students and volunteers to work on the front lines of this pandemic.

“In a time of emergency, we need to make it easier for hospitals to free up bed space and hire more medical staff, and this order does that,” Cooper said in a release announcing the order.

The order runs 21 pages and is complex in places. An explainer provided by the Governor's Office runs eight pages.

The order loosens a number of hospital regulations, largely aimed at letting facilities boost capacity quickly. They'll still have to seek state approval to add beds and move equipment, but that approval is expected to come quickly, and Cooper's order temporarily cuts red tape regulations known as Certificate of Need rules.

Those rules are meant to limit competition among hospitals in communities. Among other things, the governor's order clears the way for ambulatory surgery centers to serve as hospitals if needed.

The child care section waives or modifies enforcement of a number of regulations in an effort to reopen day care facilities around the state. Many have closed, and the order indicates that only those serving the children of essential business workers, homeless children, children on welfare services and other endangered children can stay open.

The list of essential businesses is a long one, though, running a gamut from hospitals to liquor stores. Programs have been set up to refer people to open child care facilities and to help pay for care.

Cooper's order also allows state licensing boards to modify their rules during this epidemic to get more health care workers in the field, including people with licenses from out of state, students "at an appropriately advanced stage of professional study" and "skilled, but unlicensed, volunteers."

It also provides health care and emergency workers with "insulation from liability to the maximum extent" allowed by law, except in cases of willful misconduct, gross negligence and bad faith.

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