Singing River Health System to get over 70 contract workers to aid in staffing shortage

Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 6:42 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 25, 2021 at 7:25 AM CDT
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OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - Healthcare workers throughout Mississippi will soon have some relief as extra hands are brought in to help them with the widespread staffing shortages.

Mississippi will soon see more than 1,000 contracted healthcare workers at 61 hospitals coming in to assist with the workload being endured by healthcare systems due to COVID-19. That total breaks down to 808 nurses, three certified registered nurse anesthetists, 22 nurse practitioners, 193 respiratory therapists, and 20 paramedics.

The 60-day contract will cost $10 million per week, but that money will be 100 percent refunded by the federal government through the Stafford Act.

Singing River Health System’s three hospitals in Pascagoula, Ocean Springs and Gulfport will be among those receiving additional workers, as well as Memorial Hospital in Gulfport.

“Improving health and saving lives, that’s what we are here for,” said Jessica Lewis, the executive director over human resources for Singing River Health System.

That’s the motto the Singing River Health System has had in place, but it’s been more and more difficult due to the shortage of workers. In the health system, there are currently 167 vacancies just for registered nurses.

“We support that with travelers and with our own team working extra hours,” Lewis said.

The shortage is stretching the healthcare system thin during a time when the focus is battling the delta variant.

“We have beds. We just can’t open them,” said Lewis.

Of the more than 1,000 workers being contracted throughout Mississippi, Singing River Health System will get 53 registered nurses and 18 respiratory technicians. The workers will trickle in over the next few days and hit the ground running helping some of the more severe COVID-19 patients.

“We have over 40 in our beds in our ERs and ICUs,” Lewis said.

Even even though hospitals are getting a small sigh of relief, it’s not a long-term solution. There’s still a need to recruit and retain people statewide, and Singing River Health System will continue to try and fill their vacant positions in the meantime.

“We could even use more if there are more hands out there,” Lewis said.

Aiding the healthcare workers being contracted to Mississippi are medical personnel from the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force, who will deploy 43 people from each branch to hospitals in Jackson and Tupelo.

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