Hospital board declines to take further action on nursing shortage

The Russell County Hospital Board of Directors declined to take further action on the nursing shortage at the hospital during a special-called meeting Thursday evening.

Board vice-chair Darryl Hammond made a motion to extend the triple-pay incentive for open emergency room shifts through June 11 to help deal with a shortage that Nursing Director Judy Withers brought to the board’s attention.

The motion died due to a lack of second, as board members Stuart Carman and Stephen Fletcher declined to second Hammond’s motion. Board member Winfrey Bates was not at the meeting due to prior scheduled obligations.

Withers said from May 1 to June 11, 75 emergency room shifts remain open, and there’s only been one application for a nurse position turned in recently.

“I just don’t know what we’re going to do,” Withers said. “We have one application and we’re advertising a lot of different places.”

Hammond’s motion would also approve the extra incentive pay for nursing managers to pick up extra shifts, an issue that Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rick Miles brought to the board’s attention as Withers has picked up several extra shifts herself recently and another manager said they would pick up some too if the incentive was approved for managers.

“I’m bringing this before you all because Judy didn’t really want to,” Miles told the board. “She was just going to take compensatory time or something like that, but if we do this, maybe some others will end up taking some shifts to lift some of that burden and not kill her.”

“I don’t care to work, and I’m not asking for more money,” Withers said. “I’ll adjust my schedule and I appreciate Dr. Miles thinking of me… but I don’t think I can work every day or every night from May 1 until June 11.”

Withers said about four shifts in the ER remained uncovered for the rest of this month.

And Miles added that Russell County isn’t the only hospital facing such a situation.

“And we’re not the only ones,” Miles said. “This is an issue other hospitals are facing as well.”

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Zac Oakes is the News and Sports Director for and Laker Country WJRS 104.9 FM.