Staffing shortages could prompt service cuts at Denver Health

Denver Health is struggling with staffing shortages that could force the health system to reexamine bed space and services, The Denver Gazette reported July 23.

Hospitals and health systems across the U.S. are facing intensified workforce challenges from staffing shortages. While COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are rising, driven largely by the BA.5 omicron subvariant, healthcare leaders have cited these shortages as a large contributor to capacity issues they're facing.

At Denver Health, there are capacity issues "multiple times a week," and the organization has had to increase spending on traveling nurses and providers to fill staffing gaps, Connie Savor Price, MD, chief medical officer of Denver Health, said, according to The Denver Gazette.

With the current staffing situation, Dr. Price indicated further steps may be needed unless there is improvement.

"What are the services that are absolutely essential we need to continue, and what are some of the things that might be extras, that we just can't sustain?" Dr. Price said, according to The Denver Gazette. "We're not there yet, but if we don't get some relief, we’re going to have to call that into question."

Staffing shortages have not only caused workforce strain at hospitals and health systems but also financial strain. Part of that is due to the cost of hiring traveling workers, which has been a recruitment strategy for organizations during the pandemic.

Denver Health spent more than $61.5 million on contract labor last year, $20 million more than anticipated, according to its audited financial statements cited by The Denver Gazette. And now the organization continues to work on how to reduce reliance on this labor.

Meanwhile, Dr. Price said the health system hasn't made any firm decisions but may have to take steps like closing beds, limiting the number of operating rooms available or examining services "that aren't financially sustainable and re-evaluate whether we can continue doing that work," according to The Denver Gazette.

Read the full report here.  

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