Hospital Leaders Brief Wisconsin Congressional Delegation on Hospital Capacity Challenges Under Omicron
On Jan. 19, the WHA hosted a congressional staff briefing on the continued strain hospitals are experiencing, particularly with the surge in new COVID-19 cases due to the proliferation of the Omicron variant.
Joining WHA President and CEO Eric Borgerding were HSHS Wisconsin President and CEO Andy Bagnall; Advocate Aurora Health Chief Medical Group Officer Dr. Jeff Bahr; SSM Health Wisconsin President of Medical Groups Dr. Mark Thompson; and Marshfield Clinic Health System CEO Dr. Susan Turney. Participating in the briefing were staff from each of Wisconsin's 10 congressional offices and Congressman Ron Kind, a long-time champion of Wisconsin health care.
WHA’s hospital leaders detailed some of the new challenges they are experiencing with Omicron as well as challenges that have persisted since the start of the pandemic. Nearly everyone is experiencing a dramatically higher testing positivity rate, particularly for symptomatic patients, due to the new variant’s increased infectiousness. Additionally, the sheer number of new cases is leading hospitals and health systems to continue to set record numbers for COVID hospitalizations.
Nearly everyone agreed that staffing continues to be their number one challenge. In particular, the growth of contract agency staffing has created myriad new challenges. Not only are hospitals having to pay exorbitant costs for staff, particularly nurses, but the agencies all too often poach staff from one hospital to work at a neighboring hospital. This has also created staffing morale challenges as loyal long-time staff feel frustrated to be making less than a temporary hire that has less experience with their hospital. All these factors are also contributing to burnout in the profession, with 20% of health care workers in one Wisconsin health system projected to leave within the next two years.
Hospital leaders also addressed questions from congressional staff ranging from how they are dealing with the shortage of monoclonal antibodies to why even incidental COVID hospitalizations consume more resources for a hospital stay.
Congress will need to pass a new resolution to fund the federal government by Feb. 18 to avoid a government shutdown, and there have been increasing talks of adding health care relief to the funding package. WHA will continue to be in close contact with Wisconsin’s congressional delegation to demonstrate why hospitals need their support now more than ever.
Contact WHA Vice President of Federal and State Relations Jon Hoelter with questions.
This story originally appeared in the January 20, 2022 edition of WHA Newsletter