by January 14, 2022
America’s hospitals and health systems are seeing rapid increases in inpatient and ICU admissions as the Omicron wave of COVID-19 sweeps the nation. With more than 55 million total cases to date in our country and a heartbreaking 800,000 deaths and counting, hospital teams are pressed beyond belief.
As they respond, America’s hospitals and other facilities have not been spared the supply chain challenges that many faced leading up to the holidays. One less visible but very serious aspect of our service should concern everyone: making sure we have the necessary workforce to care for patients.
Millions of American workers have either quit or changed jobs in recent months. It’s been called the Great Resignation or the Big Quit, and it is affecting many employers, including the healthcare field.
Data is painting a dire situation for hospitals. A recent survey suggests that one in five healthcare workers has left their job since the start of the pandemic. In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that hospital employment decreased by almost 100,000 from February 2020 to September 2021.
This national emergency demands immediate attention from policymakers at every level of government.
Many workers are simply exhausted and worn out after maintaining an unsustainable pace for almost 2 years on the frontlines battling COVID-19.
Hospitals and health systems across the country are confronting these challenges every day.
At Providence, the health system I’m privileged to lead, we’re using our scale to offer an array of workforce programs and services to support our 120,000 dedicated caregivers, including tuition reimbursement and other training benefits, referral and retention bonuses, free behavioral healthcare, caregiver assistance, and online resources.
The American Hospital Association has also published resources for the healthcare field and the public, covering topics such as stress and coping, suicide prevention, and clinician well-being.
Our workforce is our most precious resource. Caregivers have proven to be the real healthcare heroes. But without a resilient and adequately-sized healthcare workforce, we cannot serve our communities. Our entire healthcare system breaks down.
While hospitals always strive to provide quality care, the workforce shortage is affecting how quickly people can get care.
There are a number of steps available now to help mitigate this urgent situation.
Workforce challenges are exacerbating the financial difficulties many hospitals are experiencing. We are grateful for relief funding authorized by Congress, but hospitals and health systems still faced catastrophic financial losses in 2020. This is continuing — losses are expected to be an estimated $54 billion in net income in 2021 alone, according to a recent report by Kaufman Hall.
That report also projects more than a third of hospitals will operate in the red through the end of 2021, amid dramatic increases in expenses due to the pandemic’s care complexity, supply chain and labor shortages, temporary staffing agencies, personal protective equipment, vaccine deployments, and testing.
Meanwhile, a separate analysis of workforce data found that staffing shortages have cost hospitals approximately $24 billion during the pandemic, and another $3 billion for acquiring PPE.
The pandemic continues to challenge both the nation’s health and our hospitals’ ability to transform care. It continues to directly affect our caregivers…those who make our mission possible, serving with compassion, commitment, and courage.
While every hospital and health system is different, they are united in their mission of caring for those who are sick and injured, as well as helping people live their healthiest lives. We all share the same goal of providing the best care to every patient, every day, in every way.
Our challenges will not be solved overnight. But we will overcome them with the same commitment to advancing health for all that has always been our north star.
Rod Hochman, MD, is the president and CEO of Providence, and is immediate past chair of the American Hospital Association’s Board of Trustees.
The material on this site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.
© 2022 MedPage Today, LLC. All rights reserved.
Medpage Today is among the federally registered trademarks of MedPage Today, LLC and may not be used by third parties without explicit permission.