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About $50 million heads to Kansas hospitals to help with statewide nursing shortage

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 5:37 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - About $50 million is headed to Kansas hospitals in order to help with the hospital staffing surge amidst a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says $50 million is available for hospitals to either provide premium pay or improve retention of nursing resources and support personnel, approved by the SPARK Executive Committee on Friday morning. She said the emergency funding will provide immediate support to Kansas hospitals in order to manage the current COVID-19 surge and address critical shortages in nursing staff statewide.

According to Gov. Kelly, qualified facilities can use the funds for either premium pay or funding for a program designed by the facility to improve the retention of nursing resources and support personnel. She said premium pay can be distributed by the hospitals to frontline employees in the way they believe is best to ensure retention of critical resources and maintenance of staffed hospital beds.

“Many of our nurses are risking their lives every day to save Kansans from COVID-19 – and the immense strain on our hospitals is causing them to be exhausted and disheartened,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “They’re taking on extra shifts and caring for more patients than they can handle – and it’s our responsibility to give them the support they need. Frontline nurses need this funding to continue battling the COVID-19 surge here at home. I sincerely thank all Kansas frontline nurses and health care workers for all they do to protect our communities from the threat of COVID-19. I encourage all Kansans to do their part and get vaccinated immediately - for our health care workers, for our businesses, and for our families.”

Gov. Kelly said the funds can provide frontline nurses and care workers with premium pay by increasing hourly wages up to $13 per hour. She said hospitals can apply for the State Fiscal Recovery Funds and get funding based on the number of nursing resources and will have discretion over how to distribute premium pay.

Additionally, the Kansas Governor said hospitals will be allowed to use the funds for alternative purposes or to retain staff if it meets compliance with ARPA guidance. She said funding in retention programs are required to be spent on pay and associated benefits of qualified employees.

By Oct. 31, and for each month after, Gov. Kelly said all Qualified Facilities that get funding will be required to report the following to the Office of Recovery and the SPARK Committee:

  • The number of nurses on a full-time equivalence basis staffing ICU beds and non-ICU beds as of the most recent pay period ending prior to September 15, 2021, broken out by contract nurses and employees.
  • The number of nurses on a full-time equivalence basis staffing ICU beds and non-ICU beds as of the most recent pay period ending prior to or on October 31, 2021, broken out by contract nurses and employees.
  • How much of the money received by the Qualified Facility has been earned under the program to date.
  • The number of weeks the Qualified Facility has had the program in place.
  • The number of frontline clinical employees and nurses who left the employment of the Qualified Facility during the period from June 1, 2021, to August 31, 2021.
  • The number of frontline clinical employees and nurses who left the employment of the Qualified Facility during each month from September 1, 2021, to February 28, 2022.
  • For any terminations of clinical frontline workers and nurses from September 1, 2021, through February 28, 2022, the number of such terminations and the reason given for all voluntary and involuntary terminations.
  • All current Covid-related policies, such as testing policies, quarantine policies, and vaccine policies, and any changes thereto with the date such changes were announced and implemented.

“It’s come to a point where you not only pray for your family member to not get COVID, but you pray that they don’t have any other illness or medical emergency either because there’s not enough space or staff for them to receive adequate medical care,” said Julie Glass, a nurse at Newman Regional Hosptial.

Gov. Kelly said she believes it is crucial to act now to protect the health and safety of frontline nurses. She said the funding will make sure that Kansas hospitals are equipped with experienced staff, rural hospitals can keep doors open, and nurses can be compensated appropriately for their tireless and courageous work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID cases continue to rise throughout the Sunflower State with a daily average of 1,331 new cases from Aug. 30 - Sept. 7, levels that have not been seen since January 2021. On Sept. 10, Gov. Kelly said the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported 4,302 new cases since the last update two days before. Hospitalizations continue to rise, with 612 hospitalized COVID patients as of Sept. 10. She said the numbers pose a challenge for hospitals to be able to continue to provide surge support staff and incentivize nurses to stay at their current pay rates.

Gov. Kelly said more information will be provided to eligible hospitals in the coming days.

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