Westmoreland health care workers are facing a shortage of staff due to the pandemic

The local healthcare industry faced its challenges two years ago before a pandemic spread around the world.

As the summer of 2022 approaches, human resources managers and department heads are finding it even harder to find people who can provide basic services.

It’s especially hard for small facilities, such as Sisters of Charity in Seton Hill, where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to attract enough people to work and cover staff vacations. The Greensburg-based congregation offers a variety of programs in education, health care, and social services.

“How do you explain to your neighbors that you only shower twice a week twice a week?” said Kathy Carulli, director of health services for the Sisters of Charity nursing department. “We’re not like McDonald’s or Burger King.”

The organization has tried to emphasize retention by making staff morale, positive reinforcement and “small rewards,” Carulli of North Huntingdon said.

“Recruitment has been tough from covid. There was a shortage of nursing before, but when covid hit, people in general were leaving the nursing profession, and we don’t know where they all went.”

According to Becky Bostick, assistant diet manager at Sisters of Charity, staff have a week off.

“We don’t have people to cover the holidays,” Bostens of Greensburg said. “It’s a little hectic on some days, but we’ve got it.”

Excela Health, Westmoreland County’s largest employer, is facing similar problems as jobs have become more plentiful than people, so those looking for it now have more choice than ever, according to Heidi Henckel, Excel’s talent acquisition director.

“Up and Down (Route) 30, and everyone hires,” Henckel said. “The competition has certainly expanded. It seems like a lot of organizations are hiring younger people.”

According to Laurie English, senior vice president and chief human resources officer, Excel hires about 90 to 100 people a month, but staff have remained “very light”.

“Clearly, we are no different from any other employer … when it comes to dealing with labor market pressures,” English said. “We can hire 50 people but have 40 leave at the same time due to retirement, leave of absence, external job opportunities and other catalysts.”

No performances

Sister Mary McCauley, the house cleaning and cleaning manager at Sisters of Charity, said sometimes people say she will come and then not show up for work.

Carulli said he believes the “wide” range of job opportunities and types available to people affect their commitment, especially the younger ones.

“Unfortunately, that means for us … because they feel a lack of work ethic:‘ Well, if you don’t like my job here, I’ll leave here and go there tomorrow, ’” Carulli said.

In the past, Carulli said, parents had a greater drive to fulfill their commitments to their children, especially jobs.

“Work ethic is not what it used to be,” Carulli said. “The world is their oyster now, they can get a job anywhere.”

A study by Mercer on the changing health care market in the next five or 10 years in 2021 found that the rate of retirement of primary care physicians will increase over the next five years.

“Currently, about 12% of family medicine, pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology doctors are 65 years of age or older and are considered‘ eligible for retirement ’,” the study says. “By 2026, that number will rise to 21% when more than 32,000 doctors reach retirement age.”

Other job vacancies arise when registered nurses leave the agency for work and internal staff move to open jobs at Excela, English said.

“The current labor market dynamics is having a negative impact on all sectors of the economy,” English said. “In terms of our pay ranges, we’re trying to be competitive in the marketplace.”

According to the Mercer study, by 2026, it is estimated that nearly 23,000 primary care physicians will leave the profession permanently, which will leave a “gap in demand for primary care providers.”

The demand for nurses will grow by at least 5% over the next five years, according to the study, which will see “more than 900,000 nurses leave the profession permanently” during that period.

“Along with retirements, employers will need to hire more than 1.1 million nurses by 2026,” the study says. “If current trends continue, 29 states will not be able to meet the demand for nursing talent.”

According to the study, Pennsylvania is expected to have the largest nursing shortage in the United States during that time period.

Katelyn Printz, Excel’s director of human resources, said she believes all businesses are experiencing a shortage of staff, and acknowledged that they could create competition in the hiring process.

“Historically, I think what pushed the market was the pure interest of what people wanted to do from an employment perspective … and I think now that the market has changed a little bit, it’s pushing up job prices. Interest in certain markets now,” Prince said.

This change has prompted companies to continue with the recent call to raise starting salaries and provide more benefits to new hires to stay in the market, Prince said.

“Unfortunately, I think all the local businesses in Westmoreland County are competing against each other in terms of pricing,” Prince said. “It’s a fight for everyone, and I think it will continue to be a fight.”

Megan Swift is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Megan at 724-850-2810, [email protected] or Twitter. .

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