A report last month from the American Hospital Association found that the pandemic “has taken a significant toll on hospitals and health systems and placed enormous strain on the nation’s health care workforce” – trends evident at facilities in the Valley region.
Interviews with local executives turned up consistent challenges. One is worker burnout coupled with higher labor costs. The association’s report cited Bureau of Labor Statistics data that hospital employment is down about 100,000 from pre-pandemic levels, while hospital labor expenses per patient through 2021 were 19% higher than pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
Another issue is deferred care, as many procedures were postponed during Covid-related surges. That often translates to more difficult medical problems and longer hospitals stays.
“What we’re getting is all those patients who held off getting care and now they’re coming in and they really are very sick,” said D.W. Donovan, chief mission integration officer at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills.
On the plus side, hospitals have learned to stockpile supplies in preparation for future crises, according to Dr. Nancy Gin, regional medical director of quality at Kaiser Permanente.
The American Hospital Association concludes that going forward, hospitals need more government infusions of capital.
“Most of the nation’s hospitals and health systems were operating on razor-thin margins prior to the pandemic; and now, many of these hospitals are in an even more precarious financial situation,” the report states. “Hospitals appreciate the support and resources that Congress has provided throughout the pandemic; however, additional support is needed now.”