'From the entire health system, our turnover is definitely up'
BEND Ore. (KTVZ) -- St. Charles Health System is experiencing a severe nursing and staffing shortage, which has limited the scope of care they can provide for patients.
“From the entire health system, our turnover is definitely up," Vice President of Human Resources Rebecca Berry said Wednesday.
Hospital officials said they are working on ways to accommodate for the influx of patients, but they may not be be able to serve all of them in the convenience of the communities where they live -- or even in Central Oregon.
“Transferring patients out of the region is not what we want to do. We want people to be able to have their health care locally," said St. Charles Bend Chief Nursing Officer Debbie Robinson.
Due to lack of bed availability, the hospital officials said Wednesday they are addressing their shortage of beds by utilizing the other hospital locations in Redmond, Madras and Prineville.
As of Tuesday, the hospital scaled back and delayed elective surgeries to have more available beds, but it didn’t help much.
“We were still struggling, on day of surgery, to have a bed available,” Robinson said.
Patients with less-serious surgeries have moved down on the priority list.
“If it isn’t a life-or-death situation that the patient could be in immediate danger within like the next six hours, it’s something that could be rescheduled," Robinson said.
She added that the other locations are also at capacity, so they’re continuing to look for internal solutions.
Right now, the hospital system is working with an agency to receive aid from traveling nurses.
“But the length of their assignment varies -- can be six weeks, 10 weeks, 13 weeks," Robinson said.
They’ve also initiated a referral program to encourage roughly 246 caregivers employed by the hospital to submit a referral and in return receive $750 if the referral is hired.
The hospital officials say they also recognize the housing and day care struggles that make it hard for nurses to relocate. They're offering a $10,000 signing bonus to reduce financial stress and attract more nurses.
“Where we’ve seen interest is in new nurse graduates that are just coming out of college," Berry said.
In order to prepare the licensed graduates to care for patients, the hospital is running two new nurse residency programs to help acclimate the graduates from their traditional schooling into practical application. The training sessions are broken into three cohorts, with one starting in August, another in September, and a third which will be added by the end of the year.
Berry said she hopes this will provide some promising results.
With the influx of patients, some coming in from delayed care and then having to stay for longer periods of time, and having fewer nurses, hospital officials hope the financial incentives pave the way for greater stability.
"We have seen more retirements over the last two years that what historically we have seen," Berry said.