STATE OF THE HOSPITAL: Merit Health hospital facing staff shortages like others across state, country

Published 2:57 pm Thursday, January 13, 2022

NATCHEZ — The omicron surge along with staffing shortages has put many of Mississippi’s hospitals in a strain.

WAPT News reported the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson had 360 vacant nursing positions on Tuesday on top of seeing 80 to 90 employees out sick with COVID-19.

Hospitals around the country are experiencing the same staffing issues, including Merit Health Natchez, Ketchings said.

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“Merit Health Natchez, like many hospitals in our state and across the country, is facing staffing challenges as we enter our third year of the pandemic,” she said. “We are sustaining care during this current surge with employees willing to pick up additional shifts to care for our patients.

“We offer a comprehensive compensation package for RNs in addition to other incentives for recruitment, including tuition reimbursement, a loan repayment program and sign-on bonuses.  Our hospital also encourages employees to help identify new team members and offers a referral bonus for open nursing positions.”

As of Thursday, the hospital advertised 50 open work positions on their parent company, Community Health System’s website, including mostly medical personnel and some security and housekeeping positions.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 illness have increased dramatically statewide, the Mississippi State Department of Health reports.

As of Wednesday, the health department reported 1,332 patients hospitalized in Mississippi with COVID-19 with 250 in ICU.

Locally, Ketchings said six COVID-19 patients were in the hospital’s care with one in ICU.

MSDH has activated its hospital system of care plan to help route emergency patients to available hospital beds. Per this plan, the state’s hospitals use Mississippi MED-COM, which serves as a medical communications and coordination center for the state during declared emergencies.

The state’s emergency order requiring all licensed hospitals to participate in the system of care plan began Tuesday and continues until Jan. 23, unless revoked before that time.

Ketchings said the hospital has and continues to report all COVID-19 patient transfers, ER or inpatient, to MED-COM.

“We will continue to provide a 24/7 point of contact for the movement of COVID-19 patients,” she said. She added all services offered at the hospital remain available.

“If you are sick, whether it is possibly related to this virus or it’s totally different, do not hesitate to come to the hospital. Our medical staff and hospital employees are totally prepared to take care of you safely,” Ketchings said. “Our staff continues to rise to meet the need and we are tremendously proud of them. They remain committed to providing the best care possible, and it shows in the way they care for our patients and their families. Our emergency room is prepared to provide care for all patients who need medical attention and patients experiencing a medical emergency are encouraged to seek care promptly.”