Staffing is a big problem for Michigan’s hospitals
COVID-19 is pushing hospitals ever closer to their limits. Both hospitals in Kalamazoo County, Bronson Methodist Hospital and Ascension Borgess, report they are over 90% capacity, and patient rates seem to be growing. The same is true of hospitals all over the state.
At the same time, a hospital’s number of beds isn’t the biggest problem affecting its ability to treat COVID-19 patients. Staffing has emerged as a major issue.
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“We can buy a lot of beds and we can put them up in all kinds of places,” said Laura Appel, senior vice president for the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, in an interview with MLive. “But we can’t make more workers overnight.”
One of the biggest reasons for the staff shortages is that COVID-19 is affecting every region of the state. That’s different from the spring when coronavirus cases were mostly concentrated in high-population areas on the east side of Michigan.
That means that every hospital is competing with every other hospital for a relatively small pool of nurses, doctors, and support staff.
Another problem is that people on the front-lines of the fight against COVID-19 are just as likely as the general population to contract the virus. That leads to medical staff having to take time out quarantine.
Finally, there the issue of burnout. Medical workers during the pandemic can get worn out from long hours in high stress jobs. That leads to staff taking time off or just quitting outright.
“I think anybody you talked in the hospital world would say the spring was very hard on people, and recovering from that had barely begun,” said Appel. “Now we’ve thrown them all back into the fire and we just really need to be supportive of our workforce.”
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