NYC Health + Hospitals Struggles With Temporary Staffing Costs

Published on May 04, 2023, 5:56 pm
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A new report released today by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found the CoViD-19 pandemic exacerbated pre-existing staffing pressures, particularly a shortage of staff nurses, in NYC Health + Hospitals (H+H) facilities, leading to an increased reliance on temporary nurses and higher staffing costs.

Between February 2020 and September 2022, temporary staffing at H+H grew by 83% to offset the loss of staff nurses while managing demand for its services. It resulted in unexpected costs of $125 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2023, which the State Comptroller’s office anticipates will remain elevated through at least FY 2024.

“For many NYC residents, NYC Health + Hospitals is a lifeline to quality health care, but it is a public health system struggling to get fully back on its feet after the stress of the pandemic,” DiNapoli said. “Hospitals and their staff were pushed to the brink during the pandemic. H+H lost hundreds of nurses, forcing them to hire temporary staff to manage demand due to the pandemic and its fallout, which increased salary costs and created training and other challenges.”

This report is an update to the DiNapoli’s 2021 report, NYC Health + Hospitals Check-Up: The Impact of CoViD-19. DiNapoli’s office routinely exams the finances and issues impacting the fiscal health of H+H.

The number of registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses at H+H facilities declined by 6% and 31% respectively from February 2020 to September 2022. As the pandemic persisted, RN staffing levels in H+H facilities declined at a greater rate than they did in the city overall and statewide. RN employment also declined in New York City and the rest of the state between 2019 and 2022 by 1.1% and 5.3% respectively. Currently, H+H’s vacancy rate for nurses is 15%.

Hiring temporary staff to deal with the pandemic and its fallout on hospital staff is driving up hospital costs across New York City, including at H+H. It is estimated that in New York, contract labor costs across health care systems and hospitals have increased by more than 110% of pre-pandemic levels, with average temporary nurse salaries increasing from about $1,800 per week pre-pandemic to about $3,300 per week in March 2022.

New York City has historically provided financial support to H+H. It funds the non-federal share of supplemental Medicaid payments, among other costs, since H+H provides care to a large share of the city’s uninsured and Medicaid patients.

The city recently announced a new collective bargaining agreement with District Council 37 (DC 37) that it assumes will set a wage pattern for other unions, including for employees at H+H. A review of the city’s recently released budget update suggests collective bargaining costs at H+H are assumed to be fully annualized at $680 million, with nurses to make up about 29% of the total.

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