Iowa pays $9 million for additional nursing staff

The state pays the agency $330 per overtime hour for each nurse

In a photo from Dec. 23, 2020, Dr. James Bell puts on the rest of his personal protective equipment in the anteroom before entering the rooms of COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit at UnityPoint Health-St . Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids. (The Gazette)

Iowa is expected to spend more than $9 million to place 100 out-of-state nurses and respiratory therapists in the state’s largest health care facilities for six weeks from the latest spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations. 19.

The state agreed earlier this month to pay a Kansas company $220 an hour for the nurses it supplies, in the expectation that the nurses will work 20 overtime hours each week at the rate of $330 from the hour, said Sarah Ekstrand, of the Iowa Department. Public Health Spokesperson.

The Gazette reported earlier this month that the state was hiring the additional 100 people, including how many would be deployed to Cedar Rapids hospitals, but at the time full contract details were not yet available.

The contract equates to more than $15,000 per week per nurse that the state will pay to Favorite Healthcare Staffing, of Overland Park, Kan. The company acts as an intermediary that solicits independent nurses for hospitals. The company pays the nurses and provides them with accommodation, most often in hotels, according to the latest job postings.

Iowa signed a contract with the company in July 2020 at lower pay rates between $71 and $160 per hour with the caveat that “rates are subject to change with written notice.” “, according to this contract. The state did not acquire additional nurses at this time because hospitalizations were relatively low.

But by mid-November that year, the number of people infected with the coronavirus who needed hospital treatment in hospitals had tripled in a month and peaked at more than 1,500.

That number of hospitalizations had dropped by about a third by the time the state acquired nurses from Favorite Healthcare starting Dec. 4, 2020, according to state data. The company provided 100 nurses for most of December 2020 and January 2021, Ekstrand said, and 68 of those nurses also worked the first week of February.

The average number of hospitalizations in January was lower than in the last months of September, October and November.

“The peak of the surge occurred in mid-November, however, this was not apparent at the time staffing was initiated,” Ekstrand said of the 2020 hospitalization peak, “ and regardless, the hospitals have welcomed the relief/support.”

The total bill for additional nurses during that time was about $6.9 million, Ekstrand said. The state paid the nurses with “federal funding,” she said, but she declined to specifically cite the funding source.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to exhaust a reduced number of nurses. Last year, the first-ever state survey of nursing demand in Iowa found that “finding qualified candidates” was the most commonly reported labor challenge for those who employ nurses. nurses.

Out-of-state nurses arrived in Iowa this month and began working as early as Dec. 7, Ekstrand said. The 17 institutions offering higher levels of care that received temporary assistance are:

  • Genesis Medical Center, Davenport: 10
  • UnityPoint Health-Iowa Methodist Medical Center, Des Moines: 10
  • University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City: 10
  • MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center, Des Moines: 8
  • MercyOne North Iowa Medical Center, Mason City: 7
  • UnityPoint Health-St. Luke Methodist Hospital, Cedar Rapids: 7
  • Mercy Medical Center, Cedar Rapids: 6
  • MercyOne Dubuque Medical Center, in Dubuque: 6
  • UnityPoint Health-Allen Memorial Hospital, Waterloo: 6
  • Jennie Edmundson Memorial Hospital, Council Bluffs: 5
  • UnityPoint Health Finley Hospital, Dubuque: 5
  • CHI Health Mercy Council Bluffs, at Council Bluffs: 4
  • Mary Greeley Medical Center, Ames: 4
  • MercyOne Waterloo Medical Center, in Waterloo: 4
  • MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center, Sioux City: 3
  • St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center, Sioux City: 3
  • Mercy Iowa City, at Iowa City: 2

Ekstrand said the additional staff also helps rural hospitals, as they should have more opportunities to transfer critically ill patients to larger hospitals.

The state pays $220 per regular hour and $330 per overtime hour to Favorite Healthcare for each additional nurse. The company recruited nurses for temporary jobs in Iowa at rates of $110 to $125 per regular hour and $165 to $187.50 per overtime, according to recent online job postings.

Favorite Healthcare also provides hotel stays for nurses and an unspecified transportation allowance.

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