Commissioners voted to provide at least $ 4.3 million to local hospitals and emergency rooms. The funding, secured under the American Rescue Plan Act, will benefit UT Health East Texas and Christus Trinity Mother Frances, who will each receive at least $ 2 million to help retain staff and fight COVID-19.
Three emergency rooms – Exceptional Health Care at Tyler, Hospitality Health ER and Tyler Complete Care – will each receive $ 100,000. A doctor has publicly admitted that the health care system is overwhelmed.
The two hospitals have created specific incentive plans of their own as well as additional parameters put in place by the county. To receive retention compensation funds, staff must qualify. Qualified people will receive compensation during the months of October and November.
The medical staff who would receive incentives through the funding include registered nurses, registered professional nurses, respiratory therapists, nursing assistants, patient care technicians, EMS paramedics, and paramedics. Christus would also include its Flight for Life RNs.
UT Health Tyler CEO Vicki Briggs said Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran understands the challenges local hospitals have faced over the past year and a half with COVID-19. She added that he encouraged his church to come together and volunteer to show caregivers how much they are appreciated.
Briggs said one of the main challenges for hospitals during the pandemic is that medical professionals across the country are in high demand. This has caused UT Health to lose some caregivers who have chosen to travel and provide care in other parts of the country.
Briggs said the hospital had to use contracted caregivers, such as nurses and respiratory therapists. The investment from the county, Briggs said, will reduce the number of nurses needed in other areas.
“We are very grateful to our caregivers who have stayed here with us and are committed to their friends, family, neighbors and not to accept these other opportunities,” said Briggs.
She added that it was not easy for caregivers at UT Health to sit next to someone who earns three to four times more than them. “It doesn’t do so well, and it’s really important for us to show them our appreciation by giving them an incentive to be here, stay with us and take care of these COVID patients, and then certainly everyone else. hospital patients. “
Briggs said the hospital has tried a number of things to make caregivers feel appreciated. At the end of last year, caregivers received a “hero bonus” and in early August UT Health placed additional incentives.
“We spend around $ 500,000 per week to make sure that our staff who are willing to work extra shifts are paid appropriately to feel truly valued and respected because they are so needed,” said Briggs.
At the start of the pandemic, Briggs said no one ever thought it would rise to the level it has seen in recent months. She added that the delta variant was different from the first variant of the virus. First, caregivers have seen an older population fall ill and deteriorate easily, and then with the delta variant, a younger population is affected.
“It is absolutely devastating on a daily basis for our caregivers to see people coming in and out so quickly,” she said, adding that it was wreaking havoc on caregivers.
Briggs said the funds would provide incentives to show appreciation not only for the hospital, but the county and the government.
“It will mean a lot to the caregivers who have remained engaged in their community during this time,” she said.
Incentives will be offered to caregivers at the bedside and who have specific patient missions. Briggs said if caregivers agreed to work more than their typical shift, then they would be eligible for these incentives. The amount will vary depending on the person’s type of caregiver.
Briggs said 100% of the funds will go to bedside caregivers and will be distributed to UT Health Tyler, UT Health East Texas Rehab, UT Health East Texas Long-term Acute Care Hospital, UT Health North Campus and UT Health East Texas EMS .
Christus Mother Frances de Tyler’s Hospital Ministry Chair Jason Proctor said Christus caregivers have repeatedly risen to the challenge of caring for patients during the pandemic. At Tuesday’s commissioner’s court meeting, he said caregivers who have worked with COVID-19 patients around the clock also bear the burden of their deaths, and anything the county could do would be greatly appreciated. .
“Our staff did not back down. They won’t back down, ”said Proctor. “It is something to say that we are behind you.”
“The support our caregivers have received from this community has been sincere and extremely encouraging throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Smith County is one of the first counties to publicly support the work of their hometown hospitals, and we appreciate the recognition of our nurses, doctors and associates for being there day in and day out to care for East Texans ” , said Proctor.
Moran said the county’s approach is intended to help retain staff essential to the treatment of patients with COVID-19 where there is a critical supply shortage by rewarding them for continuing to work at county facilities. de Smith over the next two months rather than pursuing contract work outside the county.