Global markets enter 2022 with refreshed COVID-19 fears due to omicron, thousands of flights and canceled holiday events around the world, and more alarmingly, an overwhelming labor shortage among essential workers from hospitals to retail stores as new disruptions deplete the dedicated frontline workers who keep emergency rooms staffed, wards running and shelves stocked.
Despite the buoyancy felt throughout the winter gifting season as pre-pandemic behaviors escalated, including travel planning and in-store shopping, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has announced in a December press release that vacancies had risen to 11 million vacancies by year-end.
Healthcare is at the forefront of sectors facing increasing pressure from the workforce as omicron infections and fears push more people to emergency rooms, exacerbating an already difficult situation.
“Hospitals nationwide are canceling elective surgeries, struggling to find patient beds quickly and fail to meet minimum nurse-to-patient ratios recommended by experts,” Pew Research reported in December. “Some have even had to turn away critical patients. “
“While hospitals are under the most pressure in the Midwestern and Northeastern states where COVID-19 cases are increasing, labor shortages are also creating problems in the southern states where cases are increasing. relatively low – for now, “Pew said, adding:” Hospitals employ around 2 people. % fewer people today than in March 2020, according to the [BLS]. “
If the burnout epidemic among frontline healthcare workers worsens and elective procedures don’t return quickly – as some, including Goldman Sachs, have warned – we may be in for a lesson. collective on the limits of digital technology, and when only human caregivers will do so.
Also read: Omicron could have a “major impact” on the pandemic
Government steps in to relieve resources and burnout
Responding to calls from nurses unions and other industry groups, on December 21, 2021, President Joe Biden announced in a press release new support for hospitals, “urging Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to prepare an additional 1,000 military personnel – military doctors, nurses, paramedics and other medical personnel – to deploy to hospitals in January and February, as needed. ”
In addition, Biden’s command creates “six emergency response teams – with over 100 clinical and ambulance personnel – … now deployed in six states: Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire and Vermont.” This is in addition to the 300 federal medical personnel we have deployed since we heard about omicron. “
The administration is also asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to “activate additional staff and capacity for the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) and FEMA regions” to add hospital beds.
Amid the ‘big resignation’ – crowds of people leaving the workforce during the pandemic – more nurses and hospital support staff appear to be bowing under the weight of two years of COVID disasters and disruption – 19 recurring.
“About 29% of nurses said their desire to leave the field is significantly higher than before the pandemic, according to the survey which included 570 responses from nurses,” reported industry news site Health Care Dive.
The report also states that “nearly 37% of nurses said they were exhausted, stressed or overworked, prompting a growing number to say they are dissatisfied with their careers and are considering quitting their jobs.”
Early reports indicate that omicron is more infectious but less severe than previous variants, which some see as the virus moving from pandemic to endemic and in a more manageable condition.
However, cuts in elective procedures and permanent staffing issues in hospitals can lead to a massive outbreak of chronic diseases that are now ignored or under-treated.
“In the spring of 2020, experts warned that COVID-19 could be accompanied by a second ‘hidden’ pandemic due to disruptions in chronic disease management,” according to a statement from the National Academy of Medicine (NAM). “More than 60% of Americans have at least one chronic disease, with diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer accounting for the bulk of the nation’s burden of disease and death.”
See also: COVID outbreak could reduce demand for elective medical procedures in 2022