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Oversight Subcommittee Leader Griffith Opening Remarks on Lessons Learned From the COVID-19 Pandemic


03.02.22

Washington, D.C. — Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader for Oversight and Investigations Morgan Griffith (R-VA) delivered opening remarks at today’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Excerpts and highlights from his prepared remarks:

THE NEED TO LEARN FOR THE FUTURE

“Understanding the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is crucial for future decision making.

“Americans need to learn to live with COVID-19, and the federal government needs to learn to better prepare for and handle future pandemics.

“It is our duty on this Subcommittee to oversee the federal government’s COVID-19 response — to examine what worked and what did not.

“I have heard from frontline workers in my district about both successes and failures experienced over the course of the last two years.

“One of the best things to come out of the pandemic for rural areas like my district is increased use of telehealth.

“Thanks to flexibilities from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and others, residents who were shuttered into isolation could connect to their doctors and nurses virtually.

“From mental health appointments to cardiology checkups, doctors and patients alike were appreciative for the ability to use at-home equipment to monitor and test.

“Other emergency flexibilities implemented by federal and state governments also helped to increase patient access to health care, such as allowing pharmacists to deliver vaccines and allowing hospitals to compound medications that were in short supply.

“As we move forward, this committee should examine which of these flexibilities should be available on a permanent basis.”

HOSPITALS BEING FORCED TO ADJUST

“During COVID-19 surges, many hospitals across the country had to think on their feet — often surprising even themselves with creative solutions.

“Ballad Health, a healthcare system that serves much of Southwest Virginia, created a ‘Safe-at-Home’ program.

“This program helped healthcare workers monitor COVID-19 patients at home by providing kits with a thermometer and a pulse oximeter.

“Nurses called patients to help monitor them from home and helped schedule follow-up appointments for further care when necessary, based on patients’ self-monitoring. The Ballad Health system cared for thousands of patients this way.

“By screening patients at home and preserving precious resources in the hospital for the sickest patients, this program reduced Hospital admittance rates, keeping beds open for those who needed them most.”

SETBACKS TO LEARN FROM

“Despite these successes, certain policies and mandates implemented throughout the course of the pandemic resulted in setbacks in my district.

“The decision to delay elective procedures eventually backfired for some patients and hospitals.

“The delay of treatment and preventative screenings resulted in worsened conditions for patients.

“People often think an ‘elective’ surgery refers to something cosmetic or optional. However, the term is broad, covering many critical procedures, including cancer screenings, hip replacements, hernia repairs, or the removal of kidney stones or an appendix.

“We saw a temporary fix to manage staff shortages and the influx of COVID-19 cases ultimately leave patients frustrated, nervous, and in weakened health.

“And in some cases, like that of our friend Congressman Andy Barr’s wife, the delay in care became fatal.”

THE BURDEN OF MANDATES

“Other challenges to our nation’s healthcare systems were a result from overburdensome federal mandates.

“Vaccine mandates made people choose between personal choice or their livelihood, which we know made existing problems in recruiting and retaining healthcare workers in rural areas worse.

“Amid federal COVID-19 vaccination mandates for healthcare facilities, healthcare workers have been fired for noncompliance, and some have resigned or quit.

“In a rural hospital, this loss of staff is not only noticeable, but damaging. Any loss of staff is detrimental to rural hospitals.

“Through this pandemic, our nation’s healthcare workforce has learned that it is possible to be resilient in a crisis.

“Even the smallest changes to care can have the biggest impact on patient health, staffing, and hospitalization rates.

“This is especially true in rural districts with smaller staffs, where each person plays an important role in keeping hospitals running.

“It is critical that we take a close look at the experiences of frontline workers and examine lessons learned as we discuss solutions to face the next pandemic.

“I look forward to hearing from our witnesses what they experienced on the frontlines, and what we can do to incorporate their lessons learned as we prepare for the next pandemic.”

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