Report: Hospital staffing shortages could compromise care

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Hospital CEOs fear that a universal healthcare system could mean compromised care due to an increased shortage of hospital staff, according to a survey released by AMN Healthcare.

The survey was conducted by San Diego-based AMN, a healthcare staffing firm, in partnership with the Council on Physician and Nurse Supply.

AMN surveyed 284 hospital CEOs regarding how the recent recession has affected hospital staffing. CEOs reported vacancy rates of 11 percent for physicians, 5.6 percent for nurses and an average of 5 percent for both allied professionals and pharmacists in healthcare facilities. Forty-six percent of CEOs said that these shortages have significantly jeopardized access to care.

Many of these CEOs expressed concerns that universal access to healthcare would increase the need for healthcare services without facilities having enough staff to fulfill these demands.

Only 21 percent of CEOs believed that their facilities had an adequate number of physicians to accommodate the growing need for healthcare services and only 33 percent said they had enough nurses on staff. AMN reported that nurse and physician shortages are inter-reliant and said that these positions should be expanded to meet the growing demands of the healthcare industry.

According to AMN, this sizable shortage of clinical professionals could lead to decreased care in rural and inner-city locations, a deficiency in emergency preparedness and a diminished capacity to “accomplish planned expansions of healthcare services,” which would severely affect both local and national economies.

Of the 284 CEOs surveyed, 37 percent found that the scarcity of hospital physicians had worsened in the past six-months, compared with only 5 percent who said it had improved. In addition, 45.5 percent believed that access to care has been compromised due to these staffing shortages.

More than half of hospital CEOs (51.6 percent) rated the physician shortage to be of “serious concern,” with 13 percent reporting that they had lost physician positions due to the severity of the recession. Thirty-four percent reported a growth in staff positions.

Despite the recession, 54 percent of CEOs surveyed said that they planned to increase the number of physician positions at their facility and 22 percent said they will add to the number of nursing staff. According to the survey, 99 percent of CEOs said that physicians are vital revenue drivers because of their capacity to admit patients and perform treatments.