Shortage of healthcare workers reaching ‘critical’ point at Mississippi hospitals

Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 11:11 PM CST
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OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - While the pandemic may be winding down in Mississippi, many of its effects are still lingering. The state continues to face a nursing shortage that has continued for months now.

In the past, Mississippi used federal funds to bring in nurses from out of state to fill staffing gaps but now that the COVID-19 state of emergency is ending, that option won’t be available.

Many in the healthcare industry have written state leaders imploring them to establish a program to encourage healthcare workers, particularly nurses, to remain working in Mississippi hospitals.

Susan Russell, a chief nursing and patient safety officer for Singing River Health Systems, is one of several who signed that letter. She said nurses are fed up and a solution needs to be found.

“(Healthcare workers) are frustrated. Honestly, some of them are angry, wondering what is it in for me to stay in the state and work for lesser wages. Why don’t I take a contract and go work somewhere else do something else?” said Russell.

The issue has only become worse over the last few months as exhausted workers have either left the field entirely or taken contract jobs that pay substantially more like travel nursing, which is largely subsidized by federal dollars.

“We just are not retaining enough people. There are not enough contracts or dollars to pay contracts for all the people leaving,” said Russell. “So we are asking for solutions for retention. Once again, it is not a facility issue; it is not a lack of rooms. It really is qualified healthcare providers, such as RNs, LPNs, nurse aides, respiratory therapists. I mean, almost everybody.”

The shortage of healthcare workers could soon be critical and that’s the reason why several are begging state leaders for help.

Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann has suggested a special call session to tackle the issue, but the governor has been reluctant to call one. Hosemann believes legislators must make the nursing shortage a priority when they return to Jackson in January for the 2022 session.

”They probably did their best work ever for what they did for us when we were sick,” said Hosemann. “So we want to make sure we provide adequate compensation to them and, you know, you will see that be one of the first bills we come out with.”

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