Loss of funding increases nursing shortage in Mississippi

Hospitals throughout the state of Mississippi are having to close floors and reduce patient rooms due to a nursing shortage that is growing worse each day.

Through the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, the state had been able to fund hundreds of nurses across Mississippi during the latest COVID-19 wave for the past six weeks.

However, that funding has recently ended and has caused hospitals to go into an even deeper hole than already put in.  Singing River Hospital Chief Nursing and Patient Safety Officer Susan Russell said, “We’re having to close additional beds, additionally ICU units, and we’re already seeing severe delays in care in the ED in the form of patients being able to get to those beds.”

Government hospitals like Singing River are nearly all not-for-profit and operate on limited cash flow. Salary restrictions are preventing these hospitals to compete with the high rates of MEMA level and out-of-state contracts without going bankrupt. “That means if I’m a nurse working in Jackson County, I only have to travel 30 to 40 miles to get three to four times the amount of money I am now.”

These new limitations have caused Singing River Health System to lose about 70 nurses and about 100 hospitals beds recently. They are now down 240 nurses since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re paying quite a bit more in salaries than we ever have before, incentives, internal contracts. We’re paying agencies. That is something we’ve never had to do before but it’s clear to see that there’s a stopping point where you just can’t compete with all of these outside forces.”

Singing River CEO Lee Bond has proposed a plan to combat this shortage called ‘Save the Lifesavers’ which pushes the state to use 25 percent of the $1.8 billion American Rescue Plan funds to pay their healthcare workers almost $20,000 each as a retention payment. “It’s just to give us a bridge until the market stabilizes and continue to offer high quality healthcare in our system and in our community.”

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