Ivey Issues Emergency Order Giving Health Care System More Flexibility to Battle COVID-19

Gov. Kay Ivey (Source: Governor’s Office, Hal Yeager)

Gov. Kay Ivey issued an emergency order Friday to give hospitals and other facilities more flexibility in treating the rapidly growing number of COVID-19 patients overwhelming Alabama’s health care system.

In a six-page proclamation invoking the state’s Emergency Management Act, Ivey said she was “cutting red tape for health care providers.” A number of hospitals across the state are reporting that their emergency departments and intensive care units are at or near capacity, and UAB Hospital and other hospitals around the state have reduced or eliminated non-COVID surgeries and other treatments.

The governor said she was acting on the recommendation of state Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris in allowing hospitals to:

  • Obtain temporary waivers of the normal certification process for expanding services and facilities.
  • Immediately add or relocate health care workers such as certified registered nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, physician assistants and anesthesiology assistants.
  • Give greater authority to certified registered nurse anesthetists in use of medications for anesthesia-related services, airway management and other procedures.
  • Employ CRNAs, physician assistants and certain other health care professionals who are certified in other states, the District of Columbia and Canada.
  • Give greater latitude to CRNAs and certain other skilled workers in treating patients and expanding drug formularies.
  • Implement “alternative standards of care” and declare health care professionals using them as “emergency management workers.”

In addition to the healthcare provisions, Ivey temporarily loosened provisions of the state’s Open Meetings Act. The order allows state and local government agencies and commissions to hold meetings by telephone and video conferencing. Written, audio or video accounts of meetings would have to posted publicly within 24 hours.

Other provisions of the order would:

  • Loosen restrictions on vehicles transporting emergency equipment, services and supplies related to COVID-19. This includes waivers on weight limits and size of vehicles.
  • Waive some regulations regarding how many hours drivers may work in cases related to the pandemic.
  • Allow state and certain local agencies to bypass normal requirements for public notice before entering into contracts for goods and services.