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posted: 3/24/2020 5:30 AM

State relaxes rules so retired medical workers can help with COVID-19 response

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Retired health care professionals considering answering Gov. J.B. Pritzker's call join the fight against the coronavirus will have fewer obstacles to getting their licenses renewed.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation has relaxed its rules to increase the number of doctors and nurses available to help.

A surge of patients is expected even as communities enforce staying at home to stem the COVID-19 outbreak.

The state regulatory agency has granted a series of variances for physicians, nurses, physician assistants and respiratory care therapists whose license status is inactive, non-renewed or expired to restore their licenses temporarily after satisfying specific criteria.

"Illinois has many very qualified health care professionals throughout the state that we are encouraging to come back into practice to assist with the impact of COVID-19," said Deborah Hagan, department secretary.

Physicians and physician assistants whose licenses are expired, inactive or non-renewed for less than three years can have them restored temporarily for no fee or continuing education requirement to work under the direction of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Illinois Department of Public Health or in a long-term care facility, hospital or federally qualified health center.

This rule change also applies to licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, advanced practice registered nurses and respiratory care therapists whose licenses are inactive or non-renewed for less than five years.

Out-of-state physicians, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists and respiratory care therapists also may practice in Illinois, if licensed in another state and in good standing. This temporary practice approval expires Sept. 30.

To renew licenses or get a temporary practice permit, visit idfpr.com.

Some professional medical associations and retired health workers have expressed concerns over the lack of available personal protection gear and the fact that most retirees fall in the highest risk category, which could prevent a swell of people from volunteering.

Illinois has asked the federal government for 4,000 respirators and received none so far and sought 2.3 million N95 masks and has been given 246,860 or 10 percent.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.