Kentucky hospitals facing staffing shortage crisis

A new Kentucky Hospital Association study shows are 13,423 total vacancies in hospitals across the state.
Nancy Galvagni, CEO of the Kentucky Hospital Association said the nationwide nursing shortage actually started before COVID.
Published: Sep. 30, 2022 at 4:32 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Kentucky health care is facing critical staffing shortages.

A new study from the Kentucky Hospital Association revealed how dangerously low the numbers have gotten.

The state’s hospitals are seeing more than 13,423 total vacancies. Most concerning, KHA said 5,400 of them are missing nurses.

“RNs and LPNS,” Nancy Galvagni, CEO of the Kentucky Hospital Association said. “So what that means for the patient is you may go to the hospital, you are in the emergency room. You may not be able to be admitted to a bed on the floor because there’s not the staff there. So you are going to maybe be held in the emergency room.”

Galvagni said the nationwide nursing shortage actually started before COVID.

”I see newsletters coming across my desk every day about hospitals in other states that are laying off staff, significant staff, shutting services down, and hospitals closing,” Galvagni said. “If you don’t have the nurses, and the other professionals to staff the beds, you can’t provide patient care,” Galvangi said.

Galvangni said retirement and worker burnout are just two of the causes of the crisis. Nurses are also either retiring or leaving the field because of COVID fatigue.

53% of the vacant positions are where they are most needed: in medical-surgical units, critical care units and emergency departments.

On Thursday, officials with the KHA met with lawmakers in Frankfort to express a need for additional funding.

Rising labor costs, coupled with inflation, Galvangi said it has made it harder to compete with other states to bring in staff.

”What is important to understand is that our hospitals simply can’t just pass that cost on in the form of higher cost to the patients that use the services because 80% of the patients in our hospitals are covered by Medicare and Medicaid,” Galvangi said.

To find solutions, officials with the KHA said they are focusing on education by creating nursing programs, teaching students about paths in health care, and training them to enter the workforce.

To read the 2022 KHA Workforce report, click or tap here.