Interim President and CEO
May 6, 2022
The “S” Word
Is he really going there? Yep, I am. Only in this case, the “S” word stands for staffing. It is no secret that staffing is our single biggest challenge right now. They say that misery loves company, and if that is the case, we have a lot of company. Staffing challenges are being faced by healthcare organizations everywhere, whether local, regional, statewide, or nationally. And it’s more than just healthcare, driving around town how many businesses do you see that do not have a help wanted sign out? Not many.
But misery loving company does not actually help with the problem, it just makes it a bigger challenge in this case, as we are competing against everyone else for a limited talent pool. Currently OH has 30 travelers working here, nursing has the largest number of travelers, but several other departments also have them, radiology, lab, respiratory therapy, sterile processing, central supply, and ECF. This sort of highlights that it is a broad-based problem. We are actually fortunate in that it isn’t more, some hospitals are reporting up to 30-50 percent of their nursing staff are travelers!
The travelers are a double-edged sword. First, we are fortunate to have them so we can keep doing what we are doing, ensure folks get their PDO time, and to be able to accommodate surges in volume. That said, the companies that employ them charge massive fees, the vast majority of which goes to the company, not the traveler. That is simply not sustainable in the long run. The insurers who pay for our services, Medicare, Medicaid, and Blue Cross predominantly, do not reimburse us for this added cost, so this is hitting us very hard as well as the hospitals around us and beyond.
The question I hear the most is “why don’t you just raise wages?” In most cases, we are paying very similarly to the organizations around us, and accelerating wages becomes a never-ending process where we each keep leapfrogging over each other. Again, not sustainable and the insurers will not compensate us for it. That ultimately impacts the “F” word, finances. Trying to be competitive and keep our finances in check is the ultimate balancing act given the limited resources at our disposal.
What we are doing is a comparison of wages with through our hospital association to make sure that we are appropriate in the market. There are always anecdotal stories of someone making more money someplace else, our objective is to be competitive, not lead the market. A small hospital will never win price wars with the larger players. Moving forward we will continue to do all we can to ensure that we have safe staffing while we are working our way back to pre-pandemic employment levels.
We are all in this together and have a role to play and you folks can help too. If you know of colleagues in other organizations that would be a good fit here, reach out to them, and tell them what a great place Oneida Health is to work (and I believe there is a “finder’s fee” if you refer someone to us who ends up employed). You can also talk us up on social media which really is where we get so much information these days. In the meantime, the senior staff, the Board and I so appreciate all that you are doing to keep us going during these challenging times. You continue to shine a very positive light on Oneida Health and we are blessed to have such a great workforce taking care of our patients, residents, and each other. Thank you!
Interim President and CEO