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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Sunday relaxed medical practice laws to allow facilities to expand the role of providers who normally assist doctors, a move intended to boost the number of health care workers treating patients with the coronavirus.

“This executive order temporarily sets aside some existing rules to allow qualified physician assistants, nurses and other health care providers to treat COVID-19 patients and help slow the spread of this virus in every corner of our state,” Whitmer said.

“Michigan’s dedicated health care professionals continue putting their lives on the line every day during this unprecedented crisis, and we must do everything we can to empower them to do their jobs.”

Whitmer's executive order also reinforces the protection of hospitals and health-care workers from liability for taking necessary steps to protect residents.

The governor said she is empowered to take the action as a result of her declaration of an emergency on March 10.

“Responding effectively to the urgent and steep demands created by the COVID-19 pandemic will require the help of as many health care professionals as possible, working in whatever capacities are appropriate to their respective education, training and experience,” Whitmer said in the order.

“To ensure health care professionals and facilities are fully enabled to provide the critical assistance and care needed by this state and its residents during this unprecedented emergency, it is reasonable and necessary to provide limited and temporary relief from certain restrictions and requirements governing the provision of medical services.”

The governor’s order anticipates expanded roles “as determined by the facility in consultation with the facility’s medical leadership.”

The order would allow medical students, physical therapists and emergency medical technicians to volunteer or work within the facility as “respiratory therapist extenders” under the supervision of doctors, respiratory therapists or advanced practice registered nurses.

“Such extenders may assist respiratory therapists and other health care professionals in the operation of ventilators or related devices,” Whitmer said.

The order allows an expanded role for “health maintenance” for pharmacists.

The governor allowed drug manufacturers and wholesale distributors from other states, whose licenses are in good standing, to temporarily ship and distribute controlled substances to hospitals, manufacturers and wholesalers in Michigan.

She also allowed health care professionals “licensed and in good standing” in any state or territory also to practice in Michigan.

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