Hospitals paying $24B more for clinical labor amid COVID-19 pandemic

Hospitals and health systems across the country are paying $24 billion more per year for qualified clinical labor than before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new analysis from Premier, a healthcare improvement company. 

For the study, Premier used its artificial intelligence database to compare workforce trends from October 2019 through August 2021. The study looked at daily, bi-weekly and quarterly data from hundreds of hospitals and clinical employees. Titles included in the analysis were limited to clinical employees working in the emergency department, intensive care unit or nursing areas. 

Six other key details from the study:

1. Clinical labor costs are up by an average of 8 percent per patient day compared to 2019, pre-pandemic. For a 500 bed hospital, this equates to $17 million in additional annual labor expenses. 

2. Compared to the pre-pandemic baseline in 2019, the number of overtime hours employees worked is up 52 percent as of September 2021.

3. The use of agency and temporary labor is up 132 percent for full-time workers and 131 percent for part-time workers.

4. Overtime and use of agency staff add about 50 percent or more to a typical employee's hourly rate.

5. The annual rate of turnover in emergency, ICU and nursing departments has nearly doubled from pre-pandemic to this year. Specifically, it increased from 18 percent pre-pandemic to 30 percent this year, according to the report. Premier noted that this number could increase as new vaccination mandates take effect and more employees resign or get fired. 

6. The study found that the use of sick time for full time clinical staff in the ED is up 50 percent, and more than 60 percent for part-time employees when compared to the pre-pandemic baseline. 


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