The headline of an article in the Wall Street Journal at the end of July read: “Traveling-Nurse Bubble Bursts,” noting that the days of the pandemic when a traveling nurse could earn $10,000 a week were ending. .
But even though salaries are no more than half a million dollars annualized, hospitals in Western New York and across the state are still spending heavily — with a capital B — on temp workers to fill in the gaps. personal.
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Consider the situation at Kaleida Health, Western New York’s largest healthcare system that is currently engaged in heated labor negotiations with two unions representing two-thirds of its payroll.
The amount Kaleida spends on agency workers has come up several times as the talks leaked into the public.
According to Kaleida, his monthly agency expenses are nearly seven times higher than a year ago, a cost that jumped amid the Omicron wave earlier this year and continued further down the line. ‘year. Kaleida is on track to spend $97 million this year on agency fees, up from just $14.5 million in 2021.
Kaleida’s rival Catholic Health System has also seen higher costs for travel workers this year – at least in the first three months of 2022.
Catholic Health said it used temporary agency staff for about 500 full-time equivalent positions at its facilities in the first quarter of this year, according to a required disclosure to investors after a bond issue this year.
At an average rate of more than $150 per hour, it cost Catholic Health more than $34.5 million in the first quarter, an increase of $24.8 million, or 255%, over first three months of 2021.
“The rate paid for agency nurses has increased significantly over the past two years, due to supply and demand forces in the nursing labor market,” Catholic Health said in the disclosure.
Catholic Health and others have rushed to hire new nurses to reduce their reliance on travellers. Catholic Health said it has made progress on that front: In early June, for example, the health system held one of its largest weekly orientation classes of more than 100 new employees.
Our eastern neighbors also have more travelers working in their hospitals.
The Iroquois Healthcare Association, which represents more than 50 healthcare systems in 32 upstate counties east of Rochester, regularly surveys its members and has seen only staffing costs continue to rise.
In the association’s mid-year financial survey, the 52 responding hospitals are collectively expected to spend more than $1.2 billion on staffing this year, which would represent a 50% increase from what which was spent last year.
And while group members say salaries for traveling nurses are coming down a bit, the sheer volume of travelers needed has increased costs for hospitals.
“They go into their reserves to pay staff costs to pay agency nurses,” said Gary Fitzgerald, president and CEO of the Iroquois Healthcare Association.
Nationally, huge healthcare staffing company AMN Healthcare Services reported second-quarter travel nursing revenue in early August of nearly $776 million, up 70% from about $458 million a year earlier.
But the second-quarter figure was down 20% from the $970 million in travel nurse staffing revenue in the first quarter.
Yes, billing rates for traveling nurses have definitely come down, but demand is still high.
“At these high levels of demand and the trajectory of billing rates for future placements, we believe the average billing rate will bottom slightly above what we had anticipated,” said AMN CEO Susan R. Salka, during the company’s earnings call.
All of these staffing discussions come as we are well into the process of state-mandated clinical staffing committees.
The committees, formed in every New York hospital in early 2022, include at least half of clinical staff and up to half of hospital administrators. Each committee is responsible for developing and implementing an annual clinical staffing plan, which includes specific staffing ratios such as the number of patients assigned to each registered nurse.
Each hospital had to submit its plan to the state by July 1. Those plans, which the state posted online July 29, can be viewed at www.health.ny.gov/facilities/hospital/staffing_plans/.
The plans must be implemented by January 1.
For Kaleida, that means creating 436 full-time equivalent positions in Buffalo General/Gates Vascular Institute, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital/DeGraff Medical Park and Oishei.
Kaleida said those positions would cost him $30 million a year.
But hey, it’s less than $100 million this year for travelers.
Want to know more? Three stories to catch up with you:
• A road increasingly traveled: tired nurses turn to lucrative business trips. But how long can this last?
• Kaleida’s ‘fragile’ finances and burnt-out employees make work deal difficult to complete
• Kaleida could add hundreds of jobs under the state-mandated staffing plan. Unions seek to build on this
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Recent news related to the Buffalo Niagara economy
Last lots available at Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park could soon have a new owner.
Developer Douglas Jemal has acquired another downtown Buffalo property, this time buy the Dragon Express building on the 500 block of Main Street.
Developer Sam Savarino plans to convert Kenmore Presbyterian Church into apartments.
The first round of legalization plan will be bring 11 recreational pot shops to Western New York.
Long duration M&T Chairman Robert Wilmers’ famous bike is now on display in Buffalo.
A Fortune 500 company backs plans to build cannabis production facility near the shore of Lake Erie near Highway 5.
Local unemployment is on the rise after four straight months of sluggish hiringbut it is still small by historical standards.
As contract talks continue, the unions representing most Kaleida Health workers plan to hold a strike authorization vote in mid-September.
Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center opened its expanded facility for head and neck cancer patients.
Part of the reason why a working agreement was difficult to close in Kaleida? A health system with “fragile” finances and exhausted employees.
But Kaleida and the unions agree on one thing: WNY hospitals need more state funding.
Four readings from Buffalo Next:
1. WNY Prosperity Fellowship Stimulates Student Leaders: The goal is to grow new businesses and keep them here – a key part of efforts to create a vigorous startup community in a region where new business creation has lagged behind the rest of the country for years. .
2. Workers are hard to find and this is holding back hiring in the Buffalo Niagara areanot because there is a lack of jobs, but because there is a lack of workers with the right skills.
3. “Cancer didn’t stop during Covid”: Roswell Park’s patient volume in its last fiscal year surpassed its pre-pandemic totals two years ago. This, coupled with the full restoration of operational support from New York, led to a surplus.
4. Why are car washes popping up all over the Buffalo Niagara area?: There is a source of money from deep-pocketed investors that is helping regional and national chains expand into new markets, while family operators are also trying to cash in.
The Buffalo Next team gives you insight into the economic revitalization of the region. Email tips to [email protected] or contact Associate Business Editor David Robinson at 716-849-4435.