Viewpoint: New York hospitals need $1B for staff recruitment, retention now

The state of New York should immediately invest $1 billion of its projected $3 billion surplus on hospital recruitment and retention to relieve the staffing crisis, Gary Fitzgerald, president and CEO of the Iroquois Healthcare Association, wrote as a guest opinion in Jan. 3.

The Iroquois Healthcare Association represents 50 Upstate New York hospitals.

The overall average position vacancy rate is 13.5 percent, about double what it was at the start of the pandemic in 2020, according to Mr. Fitzgerald. There are over 10,000 open positions in Upstate hospitals. For registered nurse positions, the vacancy rate is higher than it's ever been, at 18.3 percent. This is forcing hospitals to turn to more expensive traveling nursing agencies.

Mr. Fitzgerald said the COVID-19 surge and vaccination mandates are worsening staffing shortages, but he said he and the Iroquois Healthcare Association support vaccination efforts.

"There is no more time to wait for relief," Mr. Fitzgerald wrote. "The time to act is in the rearview. With every passing day, we continue to hear from hospitals and their staff about the need to recruit more staff and new ways to retain and recognize the staff that we have — a longstanding challenge. Upstate New York hospitals need policymakers to act and do so swiftly."

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