US hospitals face staffing shortages amid latest COVID-19 wave: Snapshots from 5 states

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As U.S. hospitals deal with more patients, both COVID-19 and non-COVID, some are facing staffing shortages.

Here are snapshots from five states where some facilities are facing staffing strains.

Florida

Hospitals in Florida are increasingly reporting critical staffing shortages, Bloomberg reported Aug. 2. Within the state, which reported record numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases over the weekend, 13 percent of facilities reported a shortage of medical personnel, according to HHS data cited by the publication. This compared to 4 percent a week earlier.

Leah Carpenter, RN, COO of Hollywood-based Memorial Healthcare System, told WLRN there is a staffing crisis as COVID-19 patient volume rises.

"We cannot continue to have this for an infinite amount of time and expect to have a good outcome," she told the radio station.

Memorial, as well as other hospitals and health systems, is also trying to compete with nursing agencies for hires and offering bonuses and incentives to keep workers.

Oregon

Some hospitals and health systems have already postponed or limited nonemergency surgeries amid the latest COVID-19 wave. This includes St. Charles Health Care in Bend, which, like other organizations, is managing staff shortages and capacity limits, according to KATU.

"We are probably at the most challenging time of the pandemic with respect to staffing. We're hearing reports from multiple hospitals that their staffing is severely constrained," Becky Hultberg, president and CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, told the news station.

Portland-based Legacy Health reported 1,321 openings, including 258 for registered nurses. In a statement provided to KATU, Legacy said the primary issue affecting capacity for Legacy hospitals "is the inability to discharge patients to a lower level of care. Many patients are well enough to leave the hospital but need a lower level of care at a convalescent facility or a skilled nursing inpatient facility. Many of those facilities are not taking new patients, so Legacy beds that should be open can't be used."

Idaho

Officials at Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello are coordinating with area hospitals and considering using the Southeast Idaho Medical Reserve Corps to address workforce needs, CEO Jordan Herget told the Idaho State Journal Aug. 2.

"We are in the height of the trauma season which causes our overall census to be high," Mr. Herget told the newspaper. "Staffing shortages are affecting hospitals throughout the region, state and nationwide."

Mr. Herget said Portneuf Medical Center also opened a new special care unit, which it has not yet had to use for COVID-19 patients.

Additionally, Bingham Memorial Hospital in Blackfoot is short on experienced nurses, and is seeking to bring in additional staffing help, spokesperson Mark Baker told the Idaho State Journal.

"That is definitely a place where we have a shortage in our region, and I know it's also statewide," he told the newspaper. "I think the trend that's most alarming now is the rate of [COVID-19] increase. We've been seeing a doubling week over week and that’s a rate that at some point becomes unsustainable."

Texas

In South Texas, hospitals are short nurses as COVID-19 admissions rise, and Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales made a plea for available nurses to return to work, the Caller Times reported Aug. 2.

"Every staffed hospital bed is full. All area hospitals are on divert, which means they cannot accept patients. This includes Corpus Christi, Victoria, Kingsville, Beeville and San Antonio," Ms. Canales said Aug. 1.

"There are beds available but no nursing staff for them," she said.

Ms. Canales said she reached out to state officials at Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Department of State Health Services and would make an official request for help.

"This help may take time, or may not be available — there is a shortage of nurses across the state and the entire nation," she said.

Tennessee

Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey, MD, said there are increasing hospital capacity concerns in the state, not necessarily because hospitals are inundated with coronavirus patients, but because of staffing shortages, WSMV reported Aug. 2.

Dr. Piercey said staffing is a need not only because of COVID-19, but also because of respiratory syncytial virus and parainfluenza, which are affecting children, according to the report.  

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