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Nonprofit hospitals’ staffing challenges easing, Fitch says

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Dive Brief:

  • Staffing shortages across nonprofit hospitals appear to be improving incrementally, according to a report out Tuesday from Fitch Ratings.
  • The report points to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showing hospitals and ambulatory service providers added 11,000 and 23,300 jobs, respectively from October to November. Job openings in the sector also declined to 8.7% in October from 9.1% in September.
  • The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and more cases of influenza and RSV are causing capacity issues that pose a major near-term risk to labor costs, however, the report said.

Dive Insight:

Hospitals have faced heightened labor costs throughout the year amid inflation and pandemic-driven burnout.

More recently, nonprofit hospitals have seen labor improvements, but higher patient volumes amid winter virus waves could boost the need for contract labor and reverse that progress, according to the report from Fitch Ratings.

And despite recent job gains in the sector, the number of resignations remains elevated, according to the report.

Resignations in the healthcare and social assistance sector were at 2.5% in October, compared to an average rate of 1.6% from 2010 to 2019, the report said.

That means workers are willing and able to leave their current roles, while also highlighting “the pressure on health systems to provide increased wages and improved working conditions to employees,” Richard Park, director at Fitch Ratings, said in a release.

The hiring rate in the sector declined from 3.6% in September to 3.4% in October, though that’s still above the 2.8% average from 2010 to 2019, according to the report.

In an effort to quell ongoing shortages, many systems have boosted wages, and hospital employees’ average hourly earnings have risen significantly during the pandemic, growing by 17% from February of 2020 to October 2022.

Average hourly earnings for ambulatory healthcare workers grew by 12% during that period while earnings for overall private sector employees grew 14%.

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