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Hospital CEOs respond to staffing issues and hazard pay

Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 11:33 PM CDT
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - Compared to the hundreds of COVID patients admitted to the hospital during the first surge, 53 is a rather low number of patients currently in the hospital.

During Wednesday’s media briefing, KGNS asked both hospital CEOs if they are holding back on caring for COVID patients.

Both of them responded that the number of patients they can take in is contingent on having enough staff, of which both say, they do not.

“As you all are very aware, we did have a huge outmigration of staff during the pandemic that hit us in the second wave that we had in the beginning of the year, and the help of the state was significant for us,” said Jorge Leal, CEO of Laredo Medical Center. “At one point, Laredo Medical Center did have 149 COVID patients in house.”

“DHL, as our other healthcare facilities, are facing staffing challenges, very similar to what has been mentioned today and we are thinking outside of the box on how do we redesign healthcare as we look into 2022 and beyond,” said Emma Montes-Ewing, CEO of Doctors Hospital.

Both CEOs encouraged qualified healthcare providers to apply, specifically nurses.

Another question directed at the CEOs by another media outlet was why hospital nurses do not receive hazard pay on top of their salaries, similar to what the state pays state nurses when caring for COVID patients.

In response, Montes-Ewing says working in healthcare always comes with risks, while Leal confirmed they do not offer hazardous pay, but other rewards instead.

“What we’ve done is seasonal contracts to help our staff, we’ve hired agency, we’ve rehired other folks and use all kinds of bonuses, which has come out to over a million dollars in a month to make our staff feel supported,” said Leal.

“Let me add something else, in terms of hazardous pay, I was previous in health care, I was where the rubber meets the road, and everything you do in health care once you’re inside the hospital, is hazard,” said Montes-Ewing. “So if we’re going to be starting to use that language, I think it’s important to continue to educate and be on the same page as our nursing schools because if future health care providers don’t want to be in the hazardous business, the hospital is not for you.”

Both CEOs say they provide their nurses and staff with PPE, and encourage their staff to get vaccinated.

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