Alaska governor adds nursing, telehealth issues to agenda

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Thursday expanded the special session agenda to include bills dealing with nursing and telehealth amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in the state.

The issues are added to an agenda that includes the annual dividend paid to residents and fiscal policy matters.

The special session, which began Aug. 16, can run up to 30 days, or until Sept. 14.

One of the bills Dunleavy wants lawmakers to consider calls for allowing Alaska to participate in a nurse licensure compact that the state commerce department has said would allow registered and practical nurses in any of the other participating states to practice in Alaska “without having to go through a time-consuming, redundant licensing process.”

The Alaska Nurses Association, in written testimony on the bill earlier this year, opposed the measure, writing in part that there was “no evidence to suggest” joining the compact would help with staffing, with nursing shortages nationwide.

The letter also raised concerns about how nurses from other states would be monitored.

State health officials say Alaska is seeing widespread transmission of COVID-19, driven by the highly contagious delta variant. Health care providers have raised concerns about staff availability and fatigue.