Combating COVID and a workforce crisis, hospitals call for more financial relief from Congress

by Dave Muoio | November 4, 2021 

For months, hospitals large and small have sounded the alarm on a labor crisis that is threatening their ability to maintain care services and jeopardizes their longer-term financial stability.

Nationwide hospital employment has dropped by nearly 94,000 people since February 2020, with about 8,000 of those workers disappearing from August to September of this year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Unit turnover has increased from 18% prior to the pandemic to 30%, while overtime pay and the cost of contract workers will likely cost hospitals an extra $24 billion for clinical labor in 2021, according to a recent Premier Inc. analysis.

“For every healthcare leader, every hospital CEO, this is the most important question we are dealing with,” David Zaas, M.D., CEO of MUSC Health-Charleston Division and chief clinical officer of MUSC Health, said during a virtual policy briefing hosted by the American Hospital Association on Tuesday. “We’ve seen the toll. We’ve seen the fatigue. We’ve seen the challenges that it’s taken at work and at home as COVID has impacted our communities.”

As workers either leave the field or depart for higher-paying positions, smaller hospitals are placed in the difficult position of competing with well-funded systems for a limited pool of skilled employees.


Chris J. Stewart

Chris currently serves as President and CEO of Surgio Health. Chris has close to 20 years of healthcare management experience, with an infinity to improve healthcare delivery through the development and implementation of innovative solutions that result in improved efficiencies, reduction of unnecessary financial & clinical variation, and help achieve better patient outcomes. Previously, Chris was assistant vice president and business unit leader for HPG/HCA. He has presented at numerous healthcare forums on topics that include disruptive innovation, physician engagement, shifting reimbursement models, cost per clinical episode and the future of supply chain delivery.

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