There have been staffing shortages at hospitals all across Tennessee because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it is forcing them to make some tough decisions.
At this point, some Tennessee hospitals are asking whether or not they should ask Covid positive staff members to continue working.
While it has not yet reached a point where they are actively asking sick staff to return, it is a possibility for the not-so-distant future.
Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey announced during a recent briefing that there are protocols in place for a dire situation like that.
“That is a practice that is being employed in some states that is starting to be discussed here amongst industry who are looking for staff and are desperate to get staff at the bedside. We have not made any official recommendations on that. That will be industry driven, but it is allowable by the CDC,” Piercey said during the news briefing.
Cases in Tennessee have continued to rise, and set new records for positive cases. That number is expected to continue going up, and many hospitals are beginning to run out of bed space. During the same news briefing, CEO of the Tennessee Hospital Association, Dr. Wendy Long, said available space is filling up fast.
Long said that hospitals across Tennessee are converting hospital units into ICU beds to meet the growing number of patients. They are also having to double up on rooms, recruit former and retired staff members, and retrain current employees to perform inpatient duties.
“Hospital capacity has always been a concern, but we’re running out of levers to pull. And at this rate of growth, it will impact other critical services that are important to you and your community,” Long said.
Chattanooga hospitals are filling up just as quickly as others across Tennessee, but they have said Covid-19 positive staff will not be allowed to work. They have also been encouraging people to seek medical care as soon as they can to prevent any worsening conditions.
Erlanger officials released a statement that said, “Erlanger is not working staff who have tested positive for COVID-19. Erlanger continues to follow the CDC guidance for how and when hospital workers can return to work following a COVID-19 exposure. We want to continue to encourage our community to seek the care they need. We are open, safe and continuously put safety in the forefront of our practices.”
Parkridge Health System and CHI Memorial hold the same stance as Erlanger. Parkridge requires any positive staff members to remain at home and follow all CDC guidelines. CHI requires the same of their employees, even if they do not present any systems.
Gov. Bill Lee has asked for those who recently retired or quit health care jobs to return to the workforce to help with the Covid-19 crisis. Nurses and respiratory therapists are the jobs that need to be filled the most.
Anyone who wants to volunteer to help during the crisis can start through the Tennessee Medical Reserve Corps.