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UMass Memorial Medical Center Warns Patients About Long Waits Due To Health Care Worker Shortage

WORCESTER (CBS) – UMass Memorial Medical Center is looking to tackle taking care of a new influx of COVID-19 patients by recruiting staff members, but hospital officials say it is no easy task – and that may mean longer wait times for patients.

"The hospital is 24/7, and it can't run without people," said Registered Nurse Ashley Davis, who has spent the last 11 years at UMass Memorial Medical Center. She currently works as an ICU nurse in the hospital's COVID Unit. "We've had a lot of staffing shortages in our unit, so we are obviously working short a lot of the time, and it is kind of contributing to a lot of nursing burnout."

Davis said the biggest issues caused by the health care labor shortage are limited resources and nursing burnout.

"People are tired. We do rely on a lot of people to pick up extra time, overtime, to help staff the units, especially during this pandemic, but people really aren't wanting to do that anymore," she said.

UMass Memorial Hospital is on Elevated Alert status, currently dealing with 60 COVID-19 patients, some critically ill.

During a town hall meeting Wednesday, hospital officials gathered to discuss how to fill more than 400 open positions.

"We are using referral bonuses for existing staff to try to find friends and colleagues who want to work here. We have sign-on bonuses for certain roles. We're really working on retention, so how can we support the staff that are here currently?" said UMass Memorial's President Dr. Michael Gustafson.

"They're doing the best they can. I think part of the problem is there is not staff that is available to work," Davis said.

In the meantime, the hospital is urging people to have patience when coming into the Emergency Department, where wait times are now up to several hours long.

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