Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order Saturday authorizing out-of-state doctors and nurses to provide care in Minnesota during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minnesota Nurses Association responded by saying it had “serious concerns” with the decision and that it comes “as hundreds of Minnesota RN’s will begin receiving unemployment checks due to furlough.”

The order means health care professionals can practice in the state based on licensure in another state or the District of Columbia, and don’t need to obtain a Minnesota license. Before caring for patients, those doctors and nurses must be engaged with a health care system or provider already working in Minnesota.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, some hospitals and long-term care facilities are facing staffing shortages due to staff illness or inability to work for other reasons,” Walz wrote in the order. “I call on health care systems and hospitals to ensure that our health care professionals are allowed flexibility in employment arrangements and labor agreements so that they can render aid where it is needed.”

At a legislative hearing earlier this month, Mary Krinkie, the vice president for government relations at the Minnesota Hospital Association, told lawmakers that hospitals wanted flexibility with licensure rules so they could bring in health care workers from other states. There are “float pools” of professionals who don’t want to go to places like New York or California, she said, but they would come to Minnesota.

“Our members have been especially concerned that they will need physicians and nurses who specialize in intensive and critical care and respiratory therapists to care for an increasing number of COVID-19 patients,” the Minnesota Hospital Association said in a statement issued Saturday. “This will help alleviate workforce concerns as the number of patients increase.”

But the MNA also said nurses from other states may not have the same high level of training as those licensed by Minnesota. A growing number of health systems in the state have resorted to furloughs and reduced hours as revenue has sharply declined due to thousands of postponed elective procedures.

“The terms of these furloughs force nurses to either go without a paycheck or jeopardize their ability to return to work after the pandemic,” the MNA said. “Even when nurses requested the ability to work in a different facility where they are needed while they are furloughed from their regular job, hospitals refused.”