Labor shortage being felt at hospitals, healthcare systems

Almost every industry across the state over the past 18 months has been affected by a labor shortage.

Included in the labor shortage situation are health care staff, who are needed now more than ever as daily COVID-19 infections continue to surge across the state and in Northern Michigan.

Dr. Christine Nefcy, chief medical officer with Munson Healthcare, said Munson Healthcare — like many health care systems across the State of Michigan — is suffering from staffing issues for a variety of reasons.

Munson Healthcare, like other Michigan health systems including Ascension, Beaumont, Bronson, Henry Ford, Spectrum and University of Michigan, announced last month policies for staff to require COVID-19 vaccinations.

Munson Healthcare officials said the decision is a proactive move in anticipation of a federal requirement.

Specific details regarding a plan to require vaccinations for any business which employs 100 or more workers have not been released yet, but are expected to come soon.

John Karasinski, communications director for the MichiganHealth and Hospital Association, said it still remains to be seen what the actual policy details will be.

“However, our biggest concern is the potential impact on staffing,” Karasinski said. “While it creates a national standard for healthcare providers and facilities, it could result in employees in non-clinical positions leaving hospitals for other industries and smaller workplaces not impacted by the employer mandate.”

Other systems including McLaren have yet to make the COVID shot mandatory, but rather strongly encourage all employees to get vaccinated.

“Everybody is quite busy with non-COVID related issues as well as COVID, so all of (health care systems) are seeing the same thing,” Nefcy said. “What we have noticed here in Northern Michigan is our ability to transfer some of our sickest patients out of the system to other entities which would have traditionally taken them is taking much longer.

Christine Nefcy

“We are having much longer waits in our emergency departments for people who need to be hospitalized,” Nefcy added. “The pressure is really everywhere across the state and our ICU beds continue to increase in occupancy.” 

A story published recently in Bridge Michigan mentioned emergency department visits are up 43% in the last year in Michigan.

Additionally, studies have repeatedly shown emergency department overcrowding increases the risk of a patient to get sicker, or even die.

“Across our system we often see single digits in terms of critical care beds we have available and we

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