ANCHORAGE — Following the amendment that the House Minority tacked on to Senate Bill 3006, legislators heard from healthcare workers and the Department of Health and Social Services, who advise that the bill in its current form is more detrimental than beneficial in enabling hospitals to address the COVID emergency. On that advice, the bill will not be sent back to the floor.
“Healthcare facilities across our state are over capacity, treating patients in parking lots and converting conference rooms to patient wards. Alaska healthcare workers are enduring the challenge of a lifetime as we experience the highest levels of COVID-19 we have ever seen and delaying care for non-COVID patients,” said Speaker Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak). “SB 3006 was never about vaccinations or mandates, it was only intended to provide relief to our frontline doctors and nurses, who have now told us in no uncertain terms that the changes made to this bill interfere with their ability to manage the pandemic and ensure safety of their patients. It’s extremely disappointing that politics got in the way of this bill passing, but we won’t support legislation that harms the efforts of healthcare workers confronting the public health emergency head on.”
“Today’s outcome is disappointing, but what’s even more frustrating is these tools, and plenty more, would already be available to healthcare workers and facilities had the Governor not prematurely ended the disaster declaration the Legislature passed in April,” said Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky (D-Bethel). “The number of Alaskans suffering from serious COVID-infections requiring hospitalization has surpassed the peak our state experienced the last time the Governor declared a disaster. There is no reason, beyond politics, that he can’t do the same today and help to alleviate pressure on hospitals with a stroke of his pen. The lives of Alaskans are worth it.”
“The original version of SB 3006 introduced by the Governor is extremely limited in scope and provides some of the tools healthcare providers and DHSS need to better respond to the changing nature of this pandemic. Unfortunately, it is evolving into a form that does more harm than good for Alaskans,” said Rep. Liz Snyder (D-Anchorage). “While the legislation doesn’t provide the tools needed to slow spread, it contains zero mandates and can help our frontline workers continue offering essential care during this surge of COVID-19. Bold leadership is needed to push past politics and deliver the good public health policy essential in this crisis.”