Mid-South hospitals dealing with staffing shortages amid COVID-19 surge

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — From across the board, businesses, in general, have been dealing with staffing shortages. Many companies have been left to figure out how to fill positions as employees go down with COVID-19. Many hospitals in the Mid-South are now dealing with the same problem.

FOX13 spoke to Nikki Polis, Chief Nurse Executive with Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, about how the hospital system is handling staffing shortages.

Polis told FOX13 the hospital had a staffing issue before the pandemic started.

“We had staffing issues pre-pandemic, but they have been exacerbated by COVID-19,” said Polis.

The shortage isn’t contained to just one department, according to Polis.

“Respiratory therapists, people who work diagnostic radiology, our techs, people who come in and deliver your trays, also our dietary aides, people who clean your rooms, our environmental service workers,” Polis explained.

Baptist Memorial Hospital has locations in all three Mid-South states. They, too, are dealing with staffing issues.

In a statement to FOX13, the hospital said more than 650 workers are currently out because of COVID-19. That’s across all Baptist hospitals in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. The statement went on to say, “We are monitoring the situation and making adjustments in staffing so that we can continue to provide care for our patients and the community. We are grateful for the flexibility and resilience of our team members. They have shown themselves to be true heroes during this COVID-19 pandemic.”

Methodist would not say exactly how many workers are out because of COVID-19 but told FOX13 they have a lot out.

“It changes every day and even within the day. I can tell you that with omicron, we do have more associates out than we had in the last surge. Even though we do have more people out, we do have more people coming in,” said Polis.

To fill the void of workers who are out, Polis told FOX13 Methodist follows several strategies.

“We continue to look at how do we recruit staff? How do we retain staff? How do we recognize staff? We have used and do use contract labor. We use a variety of strategies to ensure we are ready for when patients come to our door,” said Polis.

Leadership from both Baptist and Methodist told FOX13 that you could help alleviate stress from healthcare workers. Both hospitals urged everyone to get vaccinated, wear a mask, and most importantly, do not go to the Emergency Room unless it is truly an emergency.