Could a pay raise be coming for Kansas healthcare workers? Hospital officials weigh new efforts to recruit staff

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TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas hospital officials are weighing new efforts to address challenges healthcare workers and patients are facing in the state. Some initiatives include a possible pay raise for staff.

“One of the things we’re really exploring is additional funding to help retain and recruit new staff,” said Cindy Samuelson, a spokesperson for the Kansas Hospital Association. “So that would be funding to help ensure that wages are comparable to where we know staff have been recruited out of Kansas for higher wages in other areas.”

Samuelson told Kansas Capitol Bureau on Tuesday that one of the biggest challenges is staffing, especially in metropolitan areas. Many hospitals are having issues recruiting and maintaining staff, during the pandemic.

“Many staff are burned out,” Samuelson said. “We know after the first phase of the pandemic, there were lots of retirements. People just needed a break.”

According to Samuelson, the issue trickles down to rural hospitals in the state that is experiencing issues with transferring patients that need critical care to urban areas. She said having more people on staff is critical in making sure patients get the help they need.

Samuelson said conversations that are underway to help address obstacles hospitals are encountering include discussing ways to help keep patients needing acute care in rural areas “close to home” through telehealth opportunities.

If a patient is needing to be transferred to seek a higher level of care, Samuelson said officials are also weighing options to get those patients to a “safe level,” so they can then be transferred back to their community to finalize care. She said this would help free up space for other patients coming into intensive care units.

This comes as intensive care beds are filling up across Kansas. As of Tuesday, state data shows that about 67% of hospital ICU beds are full.

It’s not only people sick with coronavirus. Samuelson said hospitals are also seeing an influx of people who chose not to get help for other illnesses during the pandemic.

Hospital advocates, like Samuelson said it’s stretching healthcare workers thin. Now, hospital leaders are looking into ways to keep staff on board and encourage more people to apply.

“We need to be able to keep our Kansas healthcare providers in our state, and we need to be able to retain the ones we have, but also recruit new ones, because we do have a challenge right now in workforce.”

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