Rural hospitals battle staff shortages, high patient numbers

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 7:22 PM CST
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REDFIELD, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Healthcare facilities around the United States are seeing record high hospitalization numbers, while working with low amounts of staff. The same applies in rural areas like Community Memorial Hospital in Redfield.

”We have done a great job of retaining our nurses, however we have lost at least two to outside jobs, travel nursing jobs. We are currently four to six nurses short,” said Dr. Randall Waldner of Community Memorial Hospital.

Urban area hospitals tend to have more money and resources to recruit nursing staff, putting rural areas at a disadvantage.

”So there’s just not the incentive to come to a small, rural hospital. Plus we have to do everything ourselves. We don’t have teams to do specific things like the larger hospitals. So, when you come here, you have to be a jack-of-all trades,” said Melinda Neu, a nurse at Community Memorial.

Rural hospitals, like Community Memorial, rely on larger healthcare facilities to transport patients to when needed, but the lack of available beds in the state has made that harder to do.

”There’s 32 beds on a waiting list for Sioux Falls. Aberdeen was also already full. We are limited severely when it comes to being able to transport people,” said Dr. Waldner.

Not being able to transport patients who need it puts more pressure on nursing staff at Community Memorial.

”If they’re all full, then people that need to be transported out, we’re having a harder time getting transferred out too,” said Megan Bixler, a nurse at Community Memorial.

”We’re having to treat patients that we normally would never treat here. So, that’s extra stress on us because we’re taking care of patients that we normally do not handle that kind of level,” said Neu.

Community Memorial Hospital is built to hold 25 patients, but due to current staffing levels, they can only hold ten.

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