Banner Health Short More Than 1,000 Nurses; Concerns Mount As COVID-19 Cases Soar

By Katherine Davis-Young
Published: Tuesday, August 10, 2021 - 3:59pm
Updated: Wednesday, August 11, 2021 - 9:50am

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A sign honoring health care workers outside Banner Estrella Medical Center
Sky Schaudt/KJZZ
A sign honoring health care workers outside Banner Estrella Medical Center in Phoenix in July 2021.

Arizona is now averaging more than 2,700 new COVID-19 cases per day — more than four times what the state was reporting a month ago. As hospitalizations climb, hospitals are once again concerned over staffing shortages. 

The largest hospital network in Arizona, Banner Health, is currently short more than 1,000 nurses. That’s in addition to hundreds of vacancies for support staff. Banner chief clinical officer Dr. Marjorie Bessel said hospitals nationwide are competing for new hires. And she said more than a year into the pandemic, many healthcare workers are getting burnt out.

“We have put efforts into place to keep them well with onsite counseling," Bessel said Tuesday in a call with reporters. "And [Banner has] also raised significantly the starting pay rate for many RNs so we can stay competitive in the marketplace." 

Bessel said Banner hospitals' intensive care units are now almost as full as they were during last summer's COVID-19 surge. 

“At this time, we are operating without capacity constraints, but I will say that with the surge that we’re beginning to experience, we are concerned if that trajectory continues,” Bessel said. 

She said Banner is preparing to hire 1,500 travel nurses for the fall and winter. She said Banner always increases staffing during those months, but said she expects hospitals to be especially crowded in the seasons ahead. 

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