Mary Beth Sallee
Jobe Publishing, Inc.
In December, Governor Andy Beshear signed an executive order declaring a State of Emergency as Kentucky saw a nursing shortage amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the state, earlier this month Governor Beshear deployed more Kentucky National Guard members to assist at healthcare facilities.
“COVID cases are skyrocketing,” Governor Beshear said during a January 13 press conference. “…Our expectation is that this week will exceed last week, which by far was the largest week for cases that we’ve had. Our positivity rate is higher than it’s ever been.”
Staffing shortages are being felt locally among T.J. Regional Health and Med Center Health facilities.
“We are experiencing the same staffing issues as everyone else,” said Stacey Biggs, Executive Vice President of Marketing, Planning, and Development at T.J. Regional Health. “There are currently 98 job openings listed on our website, and that doesn’t include contracted workers in Environmental Services or Dietary. Many of the openings are for RNs and Nurse Assistants. We are having to backfill the RN positions with contracted traveling nurses, which increase labor costs nearly three-fold.”
Biggs also stated that as of January 13, several employees were not at work because of COVID-19. Others were home with children who are quarantined.
“Having said all of that, we are actively recruiting for positions across the organization and are evaluating pay scales, benefits, and every aspect of employment,” Biggs said. “None of this is unique to T.J. Every healthcare organization in the region, state, and country are having the same conversations and dealing with the same issues.”
Corie M. Martin, Ed.D, Executive Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Med Center Health released a statement on behalf of The Medical Center at Caverna in Horse Cave and other Med Center Health facilities.
“The Medical Center at Caverna is continuing to do everything we can to fight COVID-19. Our staff remains dedicated to the health and safety of our patients,” Martin said. “Our nation has been struggling with a shortage of nurses that began well before the COVID-19 public health emergency. While the pandemic and the national nursing shortage present challenges for all Kentucky hospitals, Med Center Health facilities are fully operational and are meeting the healthcare needs of our patients and communities.”
“We ask that our community members help support our healthcare workers by protecting themselves and others through getting vaccinated against COVID-19,” Martin added. “Vaccinations and boosters, especially when paired with masking, hand hygiene, and social distancing, remain the strongest defense against serious illness, hospitalization, and even death from this terrible virus.”
According to Martin, Med Center Health has administered over 103,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Last year, Med Center Health made vaccines mandatory for all employees. Those in leadership positions with Med Center Health had through August 9, 2021, to receive their first dose, and all other employees had through September 1, 2021. Anyone who refused the vaccine was no longer employed with any Med Center Health facilities after September 1, 2021.
T.J. Regional Health had not required their workers to take the vaccine in order to remain employed. However, on January 13, the Supreme Court voted in a 5-4 majority to uphold the Biden administration’s vaccination mandate for healthcare workers. All healthcare workers employed at medical facilities that accept Medicaid or Medicare payments must receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We expect to receive more information and clarification from CMS (The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) in the coming days regarding timelines and the process to remain in compliance with the vaccine mandate,” Biggs said. “That being said, the overwhelming majority of our team members are fully vaccinated and/or have had at least one shot.”
To schedule an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine or a booster with The Medical at Caverna, call 270-786-2372. For more information about the vaccine and the booster, visit medcenterhealth.org/vaccine.
To schedule an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine or a booster with T.J. Regional Health, visit tjregionalhealth.org/vaccine. You may also call to schedule an appointment. For the Moderna COVID vaccine, call 270-659-1010. For the Pfizer COVID vaccine, call 270-659-5599.