The U.S. health-care profession is suffering its own Great Resignation, pushing more hospitals into financial distress just as a winter surge of the coronavirus hits.
Across the country, hospitals are buckling under the strain of nursing shortfalls and the spiraling cost of hiring replacements. For Watsonville Community Hospital on California’s Central Coast, those costs became too much to bear, and contributed to the facility’s bankruptcy this month, according to a person familiar with the situation.
EDITOR’S NOTE – Watsonville CA has possibly the highest percentage of ILLEGALS in the entire state North of the MX border. Agricultural community with about 84% hispanic residents.
The shortages are most acute at hospitals like Watsonville that rely on government funding to treat poorer patients, since they have fewer resources to compete against the rising cost of keeping staff. The situation adds to the stress facilities have already experienced responding to the early onset of the virus, just as the last of federal aid is being doled out.
“This is like survival stakes,” said Steven Shill, head of the health-care practice at advisory firm BDO USA. Winners are “whoever’s highest on the food chain and who has the biggest checkbook.” The staffing companies — agencies that provide nurses and other staff on a temporary basis — are “really, really, really gouging hospitals.”
Saint John’s Episcopal Hospital Chief Executive Officer Jerry Walsh has been on the losing side of those battles, beat out by larger, wealthier systems while laying out thousands of dollars a week more to pay what he calls “exorbitant” rates to outside agencies to keep his hospital properly staffed. St. John’s, in a remote corner of Queens, treats some of the city’s poorest and sickest patients and relies mainly on less-lucrative government-insured patients.
“This is the worst nursing shortage that I have witnessed in my career,” Maureen May, a 30-year veteran of the pediatric ICU and the president of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, a union, said in an interview.
The issue is emerging in the capital markets, too. Aveanna Healthcare Holdings Inc. went public in April in an effort to expand beyond its leading position in pediatric home health services. But a shortage of caregivers has pummeled its stock, while credit raters gave a debt issue to fund acquisitions low-tier junk level assessments.