Conway Regional address nursing shortages, bed space, travel nurse wages | News

Arkansas hospitals are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the shortage of nursing staff. This week, the Arkansas Department of Health continues to report record COVID cases in the state.

Conway Regional Health System CEO Matt Troup said it should have 500 nurses and 95 of those positions are vacant. He said there was no more than 15 percent of the total need for full staffing. He said it was just under 10-12 percent system-wide before the pandemic.

According to Troup, Conway Regional has a Helping Hands program that allows clinical staff to perform small tasks to help nurses but not directly help patients. He said all of Conway Regional’s ICU beds are full and the rehab hospital will be used for additional bed space for non-COVID patients.

“Conway Regional, like many hospitals, needs to think creatively, think differently, and use space that is not normally intended for an ICU bed but that we have to get along with,” said Troup. “Unfortunately there is no other place for this patient.”

Troup said his other concern is health care workers having to quit their jobs because they tested positive for COVID-19. He said 81 employees had missed their jobs as of Wednesday.

“The bed shortage is one thing, I think our more pressing problem today is the staff,” said Troup. “The employees affected by COVID, themselves, their family members. we have to take them out of the job market. “

According to Troup, Conway Regional had to hire expensive travel nurses due to the shortage. He said the hospital only had a handful of travel nurses on contract before the pandemic. Troup said these nurses make between $ 140 and $ 160 an hour.

“It’s a dramatic difference, we had to respond by increasing the quotas here, just for our full-time regular employees, to stay competitive and keep them here,” said Troup.

State Representative Fred Love told KATV during a meeting Monday with the UAMS and St. Bernards Medical Center it was made aware of how much travel nurses are paid. Love shared his surprise and dismay when he learned that these two hospitals were paying these nurses nearly $ 150 an hour during their contract.

According to Love, he hopes Arkansas hospitals can do a better job of attracting competitive wages to local college graduates or those currently in employment.

“That means we lose twice,” said Love. “We lose because we have already subsidized education here and then they leave. So now we have to pay a surplus to actually get nurses who actually have a 12 week window and then they’re gone. “

Officials with the Conway Regional Health System told KATV that starting wages rose by up to 20 percent from 2019 to 2021.

It has 1,500 nurses and has to fill nearly 400 positions, according to UAMS. They told KATV for most of 2021 that the hospital had about 350 RN job openings on average, but the numbers rose over the course of the year.

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