In the U.S., around 1 in 5 hospitals have a critical shortage of staff
Share Now on:
Robert Hancock, a physician who treats patients in Texas and Oklahoma, has seen firsthand what it’s like when overwhelmed hospitals experience COVID-19 outbreaks among staff.
“I personally tried to transfer a patient and basically tried everywhere within 150 miles and nobody had available ICU beds,” Hancock said.
He’s forced to keep patients in emergency rooms and ask overwhelmed ER nurses to look after three times the number of patients he said they should.
As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.
John Henderson, president and CEO of the Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals, said staffing problems are getting worse.
“Particularly when you go west and northwest in Texas, they’re having fits with COVID outbreaks among their staff nurses,” he said.
Another problem for hospitals whose staff contract the virus is that COVID patients often need ventilators and urgent care for a long time.
“It’s not your normal two-day hospital stay and then you turn the room over,” Henderson said. “It’s 10 days, two weeks in some instances where they’re in-patient with intensive staffing and equipment needs.”
One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.
“If you’ve been waiting for a few months to get in to have that funny lump that’s been seen in your breast cared for or your circulatory system needs repair, all of those things are urgent and concerning to Americans,” said Nancy Foster, vice president of quality and patient safety at the American Hospital Association.
She says hospitals are doing what they can to adapt — cross-training and redistributing work to different personnel — but the strain on staff isn’t going to let up anytime soon.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?
This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.
Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?
India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.
Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?
As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.
We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.
Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.
In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.
Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.
Donate now to get almost any thank-you gift.