TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — As the number of COVID-19 patients surge in Florida, the majority of hospitals report they need immediate backup and, according to the Florida Hospital Association, our facilities are on the brink of a critical staffing shortage.
Health care workers facing the fourth wave of the virus, including Polk County nurse Tiffany Mcmahan, say they are wiped out.
“It’s just a vicious cycle of not having enough nurses and them quitting because they’re exhausted,” Mcmahan said.
Nurses say increasing incentives are not enough to make up for the exhaustion being felt as hospitalizations surge.
To cope, health care systems like BayCare have paused elective surgical procedures that require an overnight stay.
“Staffing is our number one need,” BayCare Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nishant Anand said.
At a news conference on the delta variant at Lykes Gaslight Park in Tampa on Aug. 13, leaders from three of the largest hospital systems all said they’re seeing an unprecedented volume of COVID patients.
“We need clinical nurses, respiratory therapists,” Dr. Anand said.
While there’s a clear consensus that hospitals are overwhelmed, there’s little agreement on how to fix that staffing crisis or who should be doing it.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has said hospitals have it under control. But Democratic Representative Kathy Castor, who represents Tampa in the U.S. House, says he needs to take action now.
“I’m asking the governor to issue an emergency order so that we can unlock additional staff,” Rep. Castor said.
Last year, via executive order, Florida allowed hospitals to bring from out of state any licensed health care worker to help.
But that’s all changed. Now, during the most critical time of need, nurses with out-of-state licenses can’t work here. The executive order expired.