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$8M in funding approved for two Shelby Co. hospital systems for staffing shortages

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 9:49 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - We are seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases in Shelby County, but hospitalizations still remain high.

Across the state, seven percent of ICU beds are available and there’s been a sharp decrease in the number of medical professionals to man those beds.

Two local hospital systems got some financial assistance to help.

“Thank you for your generous offer. I don’t have to tell you, the last 18 months have been very challenging for all of us,” said Michael Ugwueke, CEO of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.

Leaders from Methodist Lebonheur and Baptist Memorial said they were grateful for the $4 million each that they were approved for during county commission committee meetings Wednesday.

The funding focused on staffing shortages.

“As we all know, there is a definite lack of nurses and healthcare workers and we have implemented a number of initiatives to address that. Obviously, those initiatives were implemented without being budgeted for,” said Ugwueke.

Earlier this month, the American Nurses Association urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to declare the nursing shortage a national crisis.

Officials with Baptist Memorial say the additional funding will not only go to supporting staffing levels but also toward purchasing additional special machines used to treat the spike of COVID-19 patients.

The only ECKO machines in the region used to run patients’ hearts and lungs can be found at Baptist.

“We have a demand. There’s a waiting list. The mayor saw that most recently,” said Keith Norman with Baptist Memorial Hospital.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and other leaders toured Baptist just last month.

Medical Professionals said Wednesday that additional funds are needed to support an already stressed healthcare system.

The county commission has already approved $3.6 million to help with staffing at Regional One. The full commission will need to approve the final funding amount for Methodist and Baptist.

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