State to extend contract with out-of-state health workers brought up to help with pandemic strain

a medical professional swabs a driver's nostril
Jose Urrutia gets a nostril swab on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, afternoon at the Loussac Library, one of Anchorage’s free COVID-19 testing sites. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Alaska health officials say they’re extending the contract for the more than 400 out-of-state health care workers who came to help local hospitals strained by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In September, the state contracted with DLH Solutions for $87 million to bring the workers up to Alaska.

The roughly 470 health care workers have individual contracts, and state officials are working with the contractor to figure out which workers will opt to extend, said State Public Health Division Section Chief Gene Wiseman

“Identify those who are not going to renew their contract, source new workers to come and then hopefully have them cross over with a couple of days of overlap,” Wiseman said on Thursday during a call with reporters. “So that onboarding can happen and minimize any impact on facilities’ operating schedules.”

RELATED: Alaska health officials urge COVID vaccinations as omicron continues to spread across nation

While the contracted workers won’t be in the state forever, Wiseman said he’s received positive feedback from hospitals around the state regarding the extra help.  

“They’ve allowed hospitals and administration that pressure relief to focus on the long-term solutions and problems,” Wiseman said.

Wiseman said the contract was initially for 90 days, and has been extended to Jan. 20. He said the state is applying for FEMA to fully reimburse the extension. The original contract can also be reimbursed through FEMA, he said.

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Wesley Early covers municipal politics and Anchorage life for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org.

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