TOPEKA, Kan. — The clock is ticking for Kansas lawmakers to extend two critical executive orders addressing healthcare staffing issues in the state.
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly’s 15-day executive orders allow for other healthcare workers, like certain retired nurses and medical students to step in where they can so nurses and doctors can deal with critical cases.
It’s among one of the first items lawmakers will take up when they return Tuesday.
They will need to pass them into law this week, before they expire, or hospitals, nursing homes and other care centers could be in a tough spot.
“Even taking care of one more patient is really important, and so to the extent that we can free up more nurses to do work, it’s critical,” Peg Burnett, Chief Financial Officer of Stormont Vail in Topeka, said.
Burnett told Kansas Capitol Bureau on Monday that the governor’s move to put the orders in place has been a great help, as they try to navigate the changing landscape of the pandemic.
Over the weekend, Burnett explained that Stormont Vail could only take 11 of 42 transfer requests. She said typically the hospital would have “no denied transfers.”
Hospitalizations in the state have skyrocketed in recent weeks. The influx of patients has forced some hospitals to shift workers around to handle more severe cases.
Burnett said, like other health providers, they’ve had to make many shifts and are working on plans to do so more, as cases rise.
“We’ve had to shift staff and draw people from other areas like the operating room, where we’ve scaled back on non-essential surgeries, as well as some of the primary care clinics,” Burnett said.
The pandemic has taken not just a physical toll on hospitals, spreading their workforce thin, but it’s also taken a financial toll. With dwindling federal aid used to support coronavirus treatment and testing costs, Burnett said they’ve now had to dip into their own funds to carry the load.
One obstacle Burnett also noted is the low vaccination rates in the community. She urged people to get the shot if they can.
“For anyone who has not gotten vaccinated at this point to please do,” Burnett said. “We all think here at Stormont Vail that that’s the biggest thing that the community can do to support its healthcare workforce.”