LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The American Rescue Plan Act Steering Committee held an emergency meeting on Monday to recommend a $50 million appropriation to hospitals in Arkansas to help fund more than 250 additional beds.

Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero told the committee Arkansas should expect to continue to see a surge of hospitalizations.

Dr. Romero said although the Omicron variant seems to be milder the number of people being infected is exponentially higher and that means the number of people who are experiencing complications is higher also.

Numbers also project there will be more ICU cases than when the Delta variant was at its peak.

Jodianne Tritt with the Arkansas Hospital Association said the state is being both reactive to the situation currently going on and also being proactive to what is imminent.

“We know we have to be prepared for more patients coming into our hospitals, so I’m really appreciative of the Health Department and especially the Governor and the Legislature being proactive and really thinking through, OK, we’re watching the trend lines and they are kind of scary looking so what do we need to do to be prepared,” Tritt said.

As of 3:45 pm on Monday the state was at 1,088 hospitalized because of covid. 

Tritt said the $50 million is much needed to fund the staffing of these additional beds, even though the physical space is not necessarily the issue for hospitals yet.

“That’s where we really put out healthcare system and our hospitals in particular at a stress point because we want to make sure we have the right space for you, physical space, bed space, those kinds of things, but we also really have to have the right personnel taking care of you to make sure that you get to get out of the hospital and get on your way to recovery,” Tritt explained.

Hospitalizations were at 495 on December 27th and the state has seen a 220% increase in just 15 days.

The appropriation must still be approved by the Legislature and because there is an emergency authorization for it the chairs of the Arkansas Legislative Council Peer Subcommittee can approve the measure (Sen. Johnathan Dismang & Rep Michelle Gray).