Federal employees made up of doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and paramedics sent to staff the field hospital at UMMC set up equipment in the basement of Parking Garage B, Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021 in Jackson. UMMC needed the help because of a lack of resources during a recent surge in coronavirus cases. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and Mississippi Department of Health (MSDH) plan to have the first groups of contract medical workers in hospitals across the state early next week. 

As of Friday, MEMA has received requests for additional healthcare workers from 60 hospitals across the state. MEMA plans to fulfill all of the requests it received and to deploy around 1,100 workers to these hospitals over the next eight weeks. MSDH is working to validate the licensing for around 10% of the workers it hopes to deploy, according to MEMA Executive Director Stephen McCraney. 

McCraney also said that once all 57 requests have been fulfilled, it would open up 680 med-surge beds and 212 ICU beds that are currently unstaffed.

“That’s going to take some pressure off of the medical system in which it currently finds itself because of this pandemic,” McCraney said. 

More than 2,000 medical professionals have left the field in Mississippi over the past year, and hospitals across the state are at a breaking point.

The contract workers will cost around $8 million per week, but the federal government will reimburse 100% of those costs. Gov. Tate Reeves said the state typically receives a 50% advance for Stafford Act requests like this, and the state has the cash flow to cover the other half until that is also reimbursed. 

Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect how many hospitals requested additional workers and how many will be placed in Mississippi.

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Will Stribling covers healthcare and breaking news for Mississippi Today.