/Omicron pushes understaffed hospitals into crisis mode

Omicron pushes understaffed hospitals into crisis mode

According to an administrator at the University of Mississippi Medical Centre, most, if not all, of the state’s hospitals were operating at their maximum capacity as of Tuesday morning. A Pascagoula hospital received a patient who was more than 200 miles from Yazoo City on Monday night. Because of a hole in his stomach wall, the patient had to be flown by helicopter. Lee Bond, CEO at the Gulf Coast’s Singing River Health System, said that they called 27 other hospitals. According to the Mississippi Hospital Association, there are approximately 3,000 nursing positions in Mississippi. Due to the new COVID-19 variant and the shortage of beds, many hospitals had to close their doors and now triage patients from all over the state in order to provide the necessary care. During a Tuesday press conference, Dr. Alan Jones from UMMC’s chancellor for clinical affairs stated that the game had changed since the Delta wave. The staffing problem is the real challenge. The fact that this virus is more contagious means that there is more demand for staffing. The state’s hospital staff managed to survive the flood of patients caused by the delta variant. This was largely due to the hundreds of federally funded nurses who came in to provide additional care. Last week, Jim Craig, director of Mississippi Department of Health said that resources are limited across the country, particularly in nursing. “I don’t know if we will be able to draw up the kind of staffing levels that we saw during delta right away.” Jones stated that even if they could, it wouldn’t arrive quickly enough given the speed at which the new variant will peak. This leaves the state with a smaller number of hospital workers. The state health department activated the Mississippi COVID System of Care Plan, which requires all hospitals to take part in transferring patients. This will ensure that no center is overwhelmed. This system can be used to transfer COVID-19 patients on ventilators as well as those who need life-saving care after heart attacks, strokes, and organ transplants. During the pandemic, Mississippi hospitals experienced a surge in nurses and health care workers. They have also been losing their jobs as nurses to temp companies and out-of-state facilities. Many of the nurses who are tired have decided to retire. According to a December survey by the state hospital association, about one-fifth (or about one-fifth) of state’s nurses are not working in hospitals. Kim Hoover, a registered nursing assistant with the hospital association said that this does not include those who are sick. “Nursing supervisors come to work on Monday morning to find that six ICU nurses have been exposed. They are unable to take patients right away. It’s so fluid that it changes from shift-to-shift.” About 90 health care workers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center have been forced to leave each day due to the virus. Jones stated that 175 people ask for testing each day because they are concerned about being infected. This is triple the number of those who requested tests during the worst part of the delta wave. UMMC has 360 open positions for registered nurses. Staffing shortages had resulted in just 60 beds being closed at the hospital as of Tuesday. Around 25 patients who were eligible to be admitted into the hospital had been waiting in the emergency department for a bed to open. At the beginning of the week, the capacity of three Gulf Coast hospitals of Singing River Health System was close to 100%. Due to staffing shortages, both from vacancies and sickness workers, they have had to reduce their bed capacity by almost one-third. Since months, the hospital has struggled to fill over 200 nursing positions. Sarah Duffey, spokesperson for Singing River, stated that “No one is applying”. Although the nursing shortage was an issue prior to the pandemic it has become more severe due to the strain on the American healthcare system. Many nurses have left their jobs as nurses in Mississippi hospitals to accept lucrative temporary jobs, also known as travel nurse jobs. The salaries of travel nurses can be up to four times that of local healthcare workers for similar jobs in Mississippi hospitals. The temp companies are used by hospitals across the country to temporarily fill gaps in their care. READ MORE: Nurses beg Gov. Tate Reeves must act, as the state is facing a staffing crisis. During the delta wave, nearly 900 nurses and health care workers from travel companies arrived at Mississippi hospitals. These contracts had a value of up to $144million, but the state ended up employing about $90 million in staff. Federal money will reimburse the $90 million. Bond, the CEO of Singing River, has spoken out in favor of federal funding to establish a nurse retention program. He stated that he would love to see the same amount of money dedicated to such a program in order to prevent nurses from leaving Mississippi. He believes that the state Legislature could use $400 million from the $1.8 billion in American Rescue Plan funds Mississippi received to create a retention program designed for high-demand health care workers. The bonuses would be $20,000 per person and would be paid out over two years. These bonuses would help Mississippi hospitals be more competitive in a labor market that is tight for healthcare workers. Hattiesburg Republican Sen. John Polk is the chairman of the ARP committee. He said that the group does not have any spending recommendations and has no “set in stone”. State leaders had discussed the creation of a plan to cost $56 million, and offer bonuses up to $5,000 to the most highly-skilled health care workers who agreed to remain for five months. Gov. Gov. Bond claims that this amount is insufficient to change Mississippi’s course regarding the staffing crisis. Bond stated that Omicron was not the primary problem. “Our primary problem was that we were already short for heart attacks and strokes. Mississippi also needed nurses to treat many other ailments. Mississippi had already predicted that it would require 2,100 nurses every year before the virus spread. Bond stated that Mississippi has significantly fewer nurses than it did before the pandemic. There are also fewer students enrolled in nursing school, and there is little reason for this to change. “We anticipate this will lead to an even more dire situation in the next year and half, regardless of any viruses.”