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Bill could mitigate potential medical professional shortage brought on by coronavirus, rep says

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A licensing reform bill that has already passed out of a Senate committee could mitigate any medical professional shortage brought on by coronavirus in Missouri, a state representative said. 

Rep. Derek Grier’s HB 2046 would allow individuals licensed in certain trades who move to Missouri to be able to apply for a state license by reciprocity. The individual would need to have had his or her out-of-state license for at least a year and be in good standing. 

While the Republican state representative’s bill covers a myriad of professions — including architecture, engineering, and land surveying — it’s those in the health care industry that could make a difference as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, he said. His bill covers those licensed by the Board of Nursing, Board of Pharmacy, State Committee of Psychologists, and Board of Registration for the Healing Arts, among others. 

“What [the bill] is going to do is allow those health care professionals to come to Missouri and fill those jobs we have in hospitals and clinics and senior communities. It’s going to allow them to get to work much faster, and it’s going to require the boards here in Missouri to work to get them a license in a more efficient way,” Grier told The Missouri Times. “With this coronavirus, we’re tapping out in the state on our ability to meet some of our needs.” 

In declaring a state of emergency in Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker announced a provision that allows nurses and medical professionals who are licensed in other states to become licensed in Massachusetts in just one day. 

Grier pointed to that action as something that could benefit both rural and urban hospitals in Missouri. 

“Rep. Grier’s bill would generally be helpful for people moving to Missouri who want to work. But especially in a time when no state knows how many and what kinds of medical professionals it will need with the [coronavirus] outbreak, this bill could be a big help,” Shoshana Weissmann, a fellow at the R Street Institute, a free-market think tank in Washington, D.C., told The Missouri Times.  

Grier’s bill has already passed out of the House and was approved by the Senate Professional Registration Committee in late February. However, the Senate canceled session this week due to coronavirus concerns. And lawmakers are on legislative spring break the following week. 

“This just highlights the need to have this legislation get signed by the governor as quickly as possible because this will enable those individuals to get here and help where needed and meet the needs of Missourians,” Grier said. “It’s an urgent need.” 

Five Missourians have tested positive for coronavirus thus far: two in St. Louis County, two in Greene County, and one in Henry County. A hospital in Clinton had to temporarily not accept new patients after an individual tested positive for the disease at the facility. 

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson declared a state of emergency on Friday, shortly after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency. 

The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” while the disease is called “coronavirus disease 2019,” or “COVID-19.” It can cause severe respiratory illnesses with symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned. 

There have been more than 1,600 confirmed cases in the U.S., and 41 deaths, according to the CDC

DHSS has opened a public hotline that will be operated by medical professionals around the clock seven days a week. The hotline number is 877-435-8411. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.