Friday, April 10, 2020

Clearinghouses are hard to organize in a hurry: volunteer medical workers in NYC

Many healthcare workers are willing and able to come to New York to help with the shortages that Covid-19 has created there.  But existing staffing marketplaces seem to be the avenue by which many of them are in fact matched.

The NY Times has the story:

Volunteers Rushed to Help New York Hospitals. They Found a Bottleneck.
When New York called for volunteers to help fight the coronavirus, 90,000 people responded. The hard part? Getting them into hospitals.

"Ms. Strickland, a former pediatric intensive care unit nurse in High Point, N.C., spent hours trying to submit her volunteer application online, and then emailed city and state representatives. She never heard back.

"Frustrated, she reached out directly to Mount Sinai Queens hospital in New York City. A manager told her to use a private recruiting agency, which the hospital had used for years to bring in temporary staff.

"Within two days, Ms. Strickland, 47, received her assignment. She started this week in the hospital’s emergency department, making about $3,800 a week for three 12-hour shifts instead of doing it for free, as she had initially wanted.
"As of Wednesday, more than 90,000 retired and active health care workers had signed up online to volunteer at the epicenter of the pandemic, including 25,000 from outside New York, the governor’s office said.
"New York City hospitals have only deployed 908 volunteers as of Wednesday, according to city health officials.

"The urgent need for medical personnel is colliding head-on with the immovable bureaucracy of hospital regulations
"State officials said the volunteer portal, which was built from scratch, was initially overwhelmed by the response, but has since connected about 10,000 volunteers to hospitals in New York State within two weeks.
"The challenge of screening so many medical workers has opened an opportunity for the dozens of established private agencies that place temporary nurses and doctors at hospitals nationwide
"The staffing agencies, an $18 billion industry, say that unlike the state, they already have the technology and infrastructure in place to quickly check credentials for health professionals. In normal times, hospitals hire them to fill short-term staffing needs, such as during a regular flu season.

“As great as it is that the state is trying to help, it’s a very complex process to staff a clinician,” said Alexi Nazem, chief executive of Nomad Health, a health recruiting agency based in New York. “There are dozens of documents to verify. Our company has spent years building those systems.”
"New York City’s public hospitals had used private recruiters to bring in about 3,600 new medical workers as of late last week and were seeking to hire 3,600 more, according to the mayor and a city spokesman.

"One of those recruiting agencies, NuWest Group, began contracting with the city less than two weeks ago. Since then, the agency has secured hundreds of nurses and respiratory therapists for city hospitals, with some positions paying more than $10,000 a week, a spokeswoman for the agency said.

"Agencies, who negotiate the rates with hospitals, say that without the high pay, there would not be enough qualified clinicians willing to take jobs at the front lines
"Hospital staff members say they are grateful for any reinforcements, but some residents and nurses have expressed frustration over the pay disparities."

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