ATLANTA — Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital is facing a crisis, which could impact patient care.
Grady recently called an emergency meeting with leaders in Fulton and DeKalb Counties over a nursing shortage. Fulton County Chairman Robb Pitts said Grady told him if it doesn’t have enough nurses, the hospital will have to close beds, limiting access to life-saving care.
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“They are leaving the profession altogether or going to other jurisdictions where they can make two, three, ten times as much as Grady can pay them” Pitts told Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Sophia Choi.
Pitts said Grady asked the two counties for $80 million for salaries to recruit and retain nurses and to offset expensive temporary employees used to keep operations going.
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Patricia Horton with the nonprofit Center for Nursing Excellence studied the nursing shortage and gave a presentation to lawmakers in November. Horton said in her 40-plus years as a nurse, she’s never seen this kind of shortage.
“We ranked sixth in the states in the nursing shortage, and we also have over 25% of our hospitals in dire staffing needs,” Horton told Choi.
Horton notes this is a short-term crisis but a long-term problem. She said with so many nurses retiring, there aren’t enough experienced faculty to train enough new nurses.
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Pitts said Fulton County is considering the requested money but said he needs more information first. He said without more nurses, patients could be impacted with delays.
“If there’s a shortage, I mean, how much time can Nurse A spend on Patient B?” Pitts said.
Grady Memorial Hospital sent the following statement to Channel 2 Action News:
“Grady staff have worked tirelessly for the last two years to care for people with COVID-19 and other conditions. Working through the pandemic has taken a tremendous toll on healthcare workers, with many choosing to leave the workforce due to exhaustion, becoming ill, family responsibilities or the need to find less stressful work.
Grady, like almost every hospital in the country, is facing a workforce crisis. We have been forced to hire expensive temporary staff to maintain operations. But unlike most hospitals, Grady is a safety net institution, providing care for all who need it. The high cost of recruiting and retaining enough nurses to staff the hospital is leading to budget shortfalls.
Grady budgeted for a 1.5% margin in 2022 but workforce costs have caused Grady to revise that estimate to a negative 5% margin. Our projection is that we will have to spend an extra $80 million on staffing this year. Through federal funds, the state is helping to cover some staffing costs. But that support is not enough and will end in March.
Grady has asked Fulton and DeKalb Counties to help with emergency funding to make sure there is enough staff in place. These funds would be used to pay the salaries of nurses and other staff needed to run Grady. If the hospital does not have enough nurses, we will have to close beds to ensure the safety of patients. That means Grady would have to limit access to lifesaving care.”
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