Rural hospitals seeing staff shortages amid omicron surge

Morning In America

(NewsNation Now) — Patients in the hallways, because there’s nowhere else for them to go. Clinics shutting down.

Many rural hospitals are seeing challenges caused by staffing shortages amid the surge in the omicron variant of COVID-19.

One rural hospital group around the Texas panhandle area told NewsNation that it’s been forced to stop delivering babies because its COVID-19 caseload is just too high.

In some areas, patients are in dire straits as they sometimes wait days for hospital transfers for more critical care as a rise in cases and staff absences limits hospitals’ abilities to accept more people.

Randall Dauby, the CEO of Pinckneyville Community Hospital in Illinois, said they’ve sometimes called 54 different hospitals for a patient in need, with no luck.

Even when there are beds available, hospital officials say there are just not enough employees to work them.

Earlier this month, the University of Kansas Hospital reported that more than 900 employees were sickened with COVID-19 or waiting for test results. That’s around 7% of the hospital’s total workforce, according to the Associated Press.

Every morning, Ryan Neville, CEO of Marshfield Clinic Health System in Wisconsin, said they find out how much of their staff may be out because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it.

Hospital staff then have to figure out how to adjust daily operations to accommodate patients, both with and without COVID-19, with fewer resources.

“Now is not the time to get into a car wreck,” Julie Swann, a professor at North Carolina State, said. “It is not the time to fall off a ladder fixing your roof.”

To rectify the situation in his state,, the Missouri governor announced that 40 medical staff members from the U.S. Navy are being deployed to help at St. Louis medical centers.

“This team will help support our dedicated local medical professionals who work hard each day to care for Missourians,” Gov. Mike Parsons said in a statement. “The best way Missourians can help aid our hospitals and health care workers is by considering vaccination to protect themselves and their families.”

On a federal level, President Joe Biden announced in January that 1,000 military medical personnel will be deployed across the country to help overwhelmed medical facilities, with six medical teams going to Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island.

Staff shortages in the health care industry aren’t necessarily a new problem. Before omicron became an issue, The Chartis Group, a health care advisory firm, reported 99% of rural hospitals were already facing a staffing shortage.

Paul Skowron, CEO of Warner Hospital and Health Services, said they’ve had staff turnover, and some early retirements as well over the past two years.

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