DHS official, governor issue emergency orders to reduce ‘regulatory burdens,’ help care workers fight COVID-19

Tony Evers in front of a flag

MADISON, Wis. — State leaders are using emergency orders to suspend some state health administrative rules amid the coronavirus pandemic to help health care workers.

Gov. Tony Evers and Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm issued two emergency orders Monday to “maximize our state’s health care workforce while ensuring patients continue to get the care they need during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a news release from Evers and Palm.

Citing “difficult times, especially for our healthcare facilities and our healthcare consumers across our state,” Evers said in a statement that Emergency Order 21 will adjust requirements for training and license renewals, suspends staff orientations at home health agencies and hospices, adjusts nurse aide training hours, relaxes criteria for resident care staff at community-based residential facilities and adult family homes, and ensures nursing homes can’t discharge patients who are unable to pay.

The order also modifies requirements at opiate addiction treatment services to help staff continue to be responsive and accessible, officials said.

“By suspending these regulations, we’re recognizing the challenges our healthcare workers and facilities are experiencing and helping to ensure they can continue their important work,” Evers said.

Emergency Order 20 expands Emergency Order 16 that was issued March 27. Evers said Order 20 extends health care provider licenses that would have expired during the public health emergency to remain valid until 30 days after the emergency is over. It also gives providers who are licensed in other states but assisting here additional time to apply for a Wisconsin license, and gives facilities where those providers are working additional time to notify the state.

“This order reduces regulatory burdens on facilities and emergency services and allows them to meet the critical needs of their residents and patients during this public health emergency,” said Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “We are all in this together, and this order provides the flexibility needed to ensure that we get through this together.”

On Monday Evers also issued an executive order to delay the state’s scheduled Tuesday presidential primary election for two months because of the coronavirus pandemic.