CHI Health administrators say staff stressed, but prepared

Published: Nov. 17, 2020 at 12:08 PM CST
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Staffing continues to be a major concern for CHI Health officials for their facilities across Nebraska. With the steady increase in COVID-19 cases and in hospitalizations, added pressures are being felt on staffing.

“There’s no question the staff are tired,” said Ed Hannon, the president of CHI Health St. Francis in Grand Island. “We’ve been working on this since the spring, but it’s what we do. It’s what we went into healthcare for.”

CHI Health has arranged for traveling nurses and other healthcare workers to come to their facilities to help with any shortages. Hannon says in Grand Island that currently involves 47 nurses coming in to help from other areas.

Hannon added they have adopted an “all hands on deck” attitude when it comes to basic functions in the hospital. He says that may involve employees from finance, or marketing or human resources to help with running for supplies, or assisting with PPE and other functions to free nurses and others to care for patients.

Bringing in additional traveling staff also allows regular employees to maintain a schedule that would include normal days off as a well to help with morale.

CHI Health St. Francis currently has 42 COVID-19 patients in their hospital. Nine of them are in the Intensive Care Units, with all nine of them on ventilators.

Dr, Cliff Robertson, CEO of CHI Health in Nebraska, says they feel better prepared to treat the current surge of COVID cases than when the virus was first striking in the spring.

“We have so much more information now than we had in the spring,” said Robertson. “While volume is up, it has a different feel. There is not quite the angst from the staff.”

Robertson says the overall census of the 14 CHI hospitals is a little less than normal for this time of year with around 1,100 total patients. The care required of the 270 total COVID cases may require longer stays - often five-to-seven days on average.

Hannon adds it is a serious situation.

“Long stays take more attention”, said Hannon. “It’s intense. It’s really busy in the hospital.”

Both officials say the one way people can help with the increasing numbers at the hospital is to take care of themselves. They say the familiar reminders of wearing a mask, washing hands and practicing social distancing is the best way for everyone to help.

“We’re prepared to handle whatever the virus throws our way, ” said Robertson. “(People just need to) do the right thing.”

In other issues discussed by the administrators in a Tuesday briefing:

  • CHI St. Francis is using a “respiratory fast track” method in their emergency room. It’s aimed at identifying patients with respiratory problems and isolating them for direct attention, as this is often a trait of the coronavirus.
  • On average, CHI hospitals in the state may transfer about 12 patients a day to other CHI facilities as part of a transfer center process that was already in place. Hannon says some days they will not have any transfers from CHI St. Francis, other days one or two.
  • Hannon said they have not lost a large number of nurses to the new hospital that recently opened in Grand Island. He says a shortage of nurses is a national problem that hospitals nationwide are experiencing.
  • About half of the COVID-19 patients at CHI Health St. Francis are from outside the greater Grand Island area.

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