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US Hospitals Struggle As Delta Surges But Stimulus Runs Out

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Doctors at work inside hospital during coronavirus outbreak - Medical worker on Covid-19 crisis wearing face protective mask | US Hospitals Struggle As Delta Surges But Stimulus Runs Out | featured

US hospitals are now facing serious financial struggles, especially those in areas with low vaccinations. Making matters worse is that stimulus funds are drying up while labor costs are soaring. 

RELATED: COVID-19 Kills Twice More Rural Americans Vs City Folk

US Hospitals Are Facing Financial Troubles

Group of doctors in medical protective masks standing with clipboards-US Hospitals

Especially in Southern states where vaccination rates remain low, many hospitals struggle to forego more lucrative procedures.

The onslaught of COVID-19 cases forced many medical centers to hold off performing elective procedures like hip replacements. Unfortunately for them, these procedures are the ones that bring in more money. 

In addition, burnout and attrition rates among nurses are growing out of hand. Overwhelmed ICUS and COVID-19 wards contribute to a growing worker shortage. In return, this drives up the cost for replacement employees.

Instead of the anticipated reduction in COVID hospitalization cases as vaccines become available, outbreaks remain a deadly occurrence.

Vaccine resistance and the delta variant combine to bring back surges. However, available money like that of last year isn’t here anymore. Elective surgeries dried up while public funds have stopped.  

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US Hospitals Face Rising Labor Costs As Temporary Workers Fill Up The Gap

Ballad Health is a healthcare system that runs 21 hospitals from Tennessee to Virginia. SVP and chief nursing executive Lisa Smithgall reported a rise in temporary contract nurses. They started with 75 temps during the start of the pandemic. This rose to 150 by August 2020 and is now 450 a year later.  

Contract nurses typically work for 13-week stretches. They made double or triple what permanent staff nurses make. With the competition for temporary workers intensifying, Ballad is now paying up to seven times as much. Smithgall said that hospitals are now competing to get enough nurses to fill shifts.

Where Did Regular Nurses Go?

Across US hospitals, many nurses reported burning out from their jobs. Many quit to stay home and care for ill family members. Others chose to become contract nurses given the pay disparity.

As a result, Ballad is now ponying up for the extra cost. Now, Smithgall reported they will soon need to deal with burned-out frontline clinical workers. 

“We knew we were at risk in our region because of where we live and because of our vaccination rate being so poor. At one point, we were seeing four or five nurse resignations per week, Smithgall added. Many couldn’t go back to work as they emotionally didn’t have it. “They were so upset with our community,” Smithgall added. 

Public Funding Is Drying Up For US Hospitals

Adding to US hospitals’ woes, $178 billion in taxpayer funds that helped them survive 2020 are now drying up. Moody’s Investors Service reported that relief funds accounted for 43 percent of operating cash flow at US hospitals, whether nonprofit and government-run.

However, the latest tranche of $17 billion released last September 10 comes with strings attached. This fund must cover expenses made before March 21, 2021. This is months before the present Delta surge began. 

When Congress passed the bailout money last year, lawmakers focused on the loss of revenue. They realized that hospitals had to cut routine surgeries and paid more for personal protective equipment and supplies for ICU operations.

These factors don’t matter as much now compared to the overwhelming number of patients attended in hospitals across the country. 

Watch the MSNBC video reporting that unvaccinated COVID-19 patients still overwhelming health care workers:

How can US hospitals and medical centers recover from their financial troubles from overwhelming COVID-19 cases?

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Should the government initiate a new bailout fund for hospitals and medical centers? Will increasing vaccination rates especially in rural areas reduce COVID-19 and allow hospitals to resume elective procedures that generate income?

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