States gripped by Delta variant face case surge with fewer health workers

“Hospitals and lawmakers in states gripped by the Delta variant are offering nurses tens of thousands of dollars in signing bonuses, rewriting job descriptions so paramedics can care for patients and pleading for federal helpto beef up their crisis-fatigued health care workforces.

The alarming spread of new cases is draining the pool of available health workers in ways not seen since the pandemic’s winter peak, forcing officials to improvise and tear up rules dictating who cares for whom. Governors and hospital directors warn that the staffing crisis is so acute that patients, whether suffering from Covid-19, a heart attack or the effects of a car accident, can no longer expect the level of care that might have been available six weeks ago.”

” Hospitals can respond by adding beds and ordering more protective gear. But they’re stuck fighting over the same finite pool of nurses, lab techs, nurse assistants and front desk workers, whose ranks have already been depleted by retirements and resignations. The Delta variant’s transmissibility — the U.S. is averaging 140,000 cases per day, up from 12,000 six weeks ago — is leaving few regions untouched, making it harder to call for reinforcements.”

“Some nurses say hospitals facing surges are paying more to recruit new nurses, or hire temps from a staffing agency, than to retain the current staff. Some new hires can receive $20,000 signing bonuses while current staff get a $500 retention bonus, said Jamie Lucas, the executive director of the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, which is bargaining with multiple hospitals for bigger retention bonuses.”

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