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4:13 PM, Feb 27, 2020

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As COVID cases surge, here's where hospital staffing is critically low

After surges in COVID cases, more healthcare workers are leaving the industry
Posted at 9:01 AM, Aug 05, 2021

(WSYM) — Similar to the state’s teacher shortage, Michigan could soon be facing a lack of healthcare workers when they’re needed most.

The CDC is tracking the number of hospitals by state that are experiencing critically low staffing, and as of the most recent data on July 31, Michigan had five facilities in that group.

“We are having to continually rally the staff over and over again,” said Chris Mitchell, executive vice president of the Michigan Health and Hospital Association. “What we’ve seen is early retirements…we’ve seen some healthcare workers leave the acute care setting and go to home health or other industries where they can use their talents and not feel the stress and strain of dealing with this pandemic.”

Mitchell says anecdotally, the departures ramp up after a big surge in cases, highlighting the fatigue that comes with caring for COVID-19 patients.

“Particularly in some of our smaller communities these folks are caring for their friends, their neighbors, and that has a profound impact on individuals,” said Mitchell.

The trend is national — though some states are being affected far more than others. Florida, where cases are surging recently, reported that 13 percent of their hospitals are experiencing a critical shortage in staff. Missouri, Texas, Iowa, Louisiana and Alabama have also seen similar numbers.

As for how to stop it, Mitchell says the MHA is looking at a few different approaches, including hazard pay for hospital workers, retention bonuses, student loan forgiveness, paid sabbatical leave and more mental health resources for healthcare staff.

Mitchell added, the best way to help alleviate the pressure on hospital staff is to get the safe and effective vaccine proven to prevent serious illness and hospitalization even if a vaccinated person does catch the virus.

“There’s a limited number of healthcare workers, and the really difficult thing about this pandemic is that it’s always hitting somewhere at some time,” said Mitchell.

Spectrum Health provided FOX 17 with the following statement on staffing:

"Like other health care organizations across Michigan and the United States and across other industries, Spectrum Health is experiencing a higher number of open positions than usual in some areas. With a team of more than 31,000 dedicated and talented individuals, Spectrum Health is always hiring in both patient care and non-patient care areas. Whether directly involved in patient care or not, each team member contributes to the health and well-being of our community. We are grateful to our skilled team members for the work they do. People wishing to join our award-winning team may see open positions and apply online here."