Lawmakers approve $40 million in emergency funds to ease hospital overcrowding

Lawmakers approve $40 million in emergency funds to ease hospital overcrowding

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  • September 24, 2022
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Oregon lawmakers on Friday approved more than $40 million in emergency funding to alleviate overcrowding in the state’s hospitals.

The largest share of the money will go to long-term care facilities, where ailing patients who no longer need hospital care can go to recover. Staffing shortages have meant those facilities aren’t taking new patients, leaving the patients stuck in hospitals instead.

The bulk of a $28.4 million allocation to the state Department of Human Services will go to those facilities through direct staffing subsidies or incentive payments for taking patients discharged from hospitals.

Another $14 million to the Oregon Health Authority will go to hospitals to pay for temporary nurses to keep hospital beds staffed and available, as well as for incentive payments to care facilities that accept patients discharged from hospitals.

Oregon hospital managers say they’ve struggled to hire and retain nurses and other support staff and have had to pay traveling nurses at premium rates to meet basic staffing needs.

Meanwhile, they’ve been unable to quickly discharge patients because the long-term care facilities are full. As a result, scheduled procedures are backlogged and emergency department patients are left to wait for hours until a bed opens up.

Rather than improving as COVID-19 hospitalizations have waned, hospitals’ financial positions have instead deteriorated because of the added costs and lower revenues. They sought the additional state funding as a stopgap.

“This funding will help relieve the capacity crisis in our hospitals, preserving access to lifesaving care,” said Becky Hultberg, CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.

The emergency board approves funding for urgent needs that come up in between annual legislative sessions and can’t be covered with state departments’ already approved budgets. Lawmakers said they hope to address issues driving understaffing in the healthcare sector when they convene in 2023.

— Elliot Njus; enjus@oregonian.com

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