Hospitals Innovate To Avoid Closures Due to Staffing

Hospitals have begun closing select services because of staffing shortages

By Mackenna Moralez, Assistant Editor
January 6, 2022

Between the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and labor shortages, hospitals and other healthcare facilities are struggling to stay open.Last month, some Minnesota hospitals took out full-page ads in local newspapers urging community members to take the pandemic seriously as the omicron variant started to spread rapidly throughout the country.

“Our emergency departments are overfilled, and we have patients in every bed in our hospitals,” the letter said. “This pandemic has strained our operations and demoralized many people on our teams. Care in our hospitals is safe, but our ability to provide it threatened.”

Nearly 400,000 people in the United States have been diagnosed with the omicron variant in the last week. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)recently updated its guidance for isolation and quarantine for healthcare workers, shortening their isolation time after being infected with COVID-19. Healthcare workers diagnosed with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic can return after seven days with a negative test, and that isolation can be cut further if there are staffing shortages. Meanwhile, healthcare workers who have received all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses, including a booster, do not need to be quarantined following high-risk exposures, per the new guidance.

Despite this, several hospitals have begun temporarily and permanently closing services because of staffing shortages. Advocate Aurora Health temporarily closed three urgent cares in Milwaukee on Dec. 29 because of staffing shortages, TMJ4 reports. The facilities hope to reopen soon.

“Managing the COVID surge combined with staffing shortages have contributed to temporary closures at our urgent care centers in Menomonee Falls, Brookfield and on River Center Drive in Milwaukee,” Advocate Aurora Health said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Indiana-based Pulaski Memorial Hospital closed its OB department in December during an emergency meeting. Maternity services will no longer be offered in mid-January, and patients with expected deliveries have been notified, and alternate plans are being made, according to WKVI.The vote was brought on by the impact of COVID-19 and the lack of available maternity nurses.

“Pulaski Memorial Hospital has had significant difficult recruiting additional staff to our OB/Maternity Department in order to maintain the high-quality standards that all patients deserve and expect from PMH,” saidTom Barry, CEO of Pulaski Memorial Hospital, in a press release.

To provide better service, UPMC has launched a new in-house travel staffing agency to help combat the nursing shortage. The agency aims to recruit and retain highly skilled nurses and surgical technologists to its workforce, and it will rotate nurses and surgical technologists among its facilities for six-week assignments.

“The Immense value of this initiative is those hired into UPMC Travel Staffing are our UPMC employees – they are mentored by us and consistently trained to create high-quality clinical and service excellence,” says Tami Minnier, senior vice president with the health services division and chief quality and operational excellence officer with UPMC. “The premise behind and priority to launch this program is firmly rooted in living each of our values of quality and safety, excellence and innovation, caring and listening, dignity and respect, and responsibility and integrity.”

Mackenna Moralez is assistant editor with Healthcare Facilities Today.

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