BISMARCK, N.D. (KFGO) – Workforce shortages continue to cause service problems in many industries, and hospitals are no exception.
Tim Blasl, President of the North Dakota Hospital Association, said workforce is the number one challenge in hospitals. He said there are adequate beds in the state, but having those beds adequately staffed is a problem from time to time, and even from week to week in some cases.
It all depends on what services a patient needs and what is available at nearby hospitals. If there is a shortage of doctors or nurses who specialize in the care the patient needs, they may be transferred to another town or even another state.
“Have there been times where somebody tries to get transferred in from a Williston or a Tioga to Bismarck or Minot and there are no beds available for that service type? Yes, that does happen from time to time,” Blasl said. “Unfortunately, sometimes those patients get transferred out of state.”
Blasl said hospitals are doing their best to work together to get patients transferred to a lower level or back to their hospital to free beds up.
“This also crosses over into psychiatric services,” Blasl said. “We deal with issues for medical beds, but psych beds are a concern as well.”
Workforce issues aren’t new nor contained to any one part of the state. They are a concern across the country and have been since before the COVID-19 pandemic. It has forced hospitals to bring in contracted or ‘travel’ nurses.
Blasl said finding travel nurses is becoming harder because many have cashed in on the high demand that paid much higher during the pandemic and are now taking a break from the stresses of being away from home.
“Maybe, because they worked many hours, it’s a mental health break or just taking some time off,” Blasl said. “From what I’m hearing from my members, there’s fewer contracted nurses in the system.”
The shortages go beyond just doctors and nurses. Blasl said there are shortages of lab and surgery techs as well as other healthcare workers.
Blasl said the Hospital Association is getting creative and working with hospitals and the state legislature to retain, recruit, and train new healthcare workers.