Gov, Chris Sununu said New Hampshire is prepared to handle the expected surge in coronavirus cases, but that some local hospitals will need help from the state to remain open.
At a press conference Friday afternoon, Sununu said the state now has more than 5,200 beds ready to handle COVID-19 patients and others needing care when the coronavirus peaks here. That includes nearly 1,700 new beds the state has set up at 14 temporary sites across the state.
“Every one of these facilities stands ready to assist and will remain dark until, the day may come, when they are needed,” Sununu said.
At the same time, Sununu said, millions of dollars in aid will be needed to shore up New Hampshire’s medical infrastructure. To that end, the state is extending a $5 million loan to Laconia-based LRGH Healthcare, which announced Friday that it will temporarily shed half its workers, about 500 jobs.
“It will keep their doors open; it will allow them to furlough that staff,” Sununu said.
Sununu said he expects that some LRGH workers will be transferred to other healthcare jobs in New Hampshire, part of what he called the state’s new "Health Workforce Flex System." Run by the state Department of Employment Security, the program will send furloughed hospital workers to facilities in need of urgent help during the pandemic. Sununu said it will keep healthcare workers in the state despite job instability.
“What we don't want is true layoffs to happen, doors to close, because then those frontline workers, you risk losing them out of the state altogether,” Sununu said.
The loan to LRGH Healthcare is the first of what is anticipated to be a series of similar loans to hospitals and other healthcare providers across the state. More than 250 healthcare organizations have applied to the new emergency loan fund since it was announced last month. The relief fund totals $50 million in state money, but that amount may not even come close to covering what's being asked for.
The list of applicants obtained by NHPR includes some of the state's largest hospitals, as well as smaller facilities like community health centers, dentist offices, and physical therapy centers. Sununu said he expects federal money may be able to replenish the emergency fund if it runs out.
(NHPR reporters Josh Rogers, Sarah Gibson and Jason Moon contributed reporting for this story.)