Nursing shortages at Shreveport hospitals lead to long wait times; impact rural hospitals

Kendrick Dante
Shreveport Times

Shreveport area health care leaders gathered at Government Plaza with Mayor Adrian Perkins Wednesday to warn the public of the consequences of a worsening nursing shortage. 

They said the amount of death nurses witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic has driven many away from the profession.

“The nurses who have graduated in the last three years and come to work at hospitals have seen more death in the last three years than most nurses see in a lifetime and that is something nursing schools can’t prepare you for,” said Jaf Fielder, president and CEO of Willis-Knighton Health System.

Jerry A. Fielder II (Jaf)

They said the nursing shortage began before the pandemic and was mitigated during the last two years by federal aid which allowed the state to hire more traveling nurses, but that funding ends Friday. 

“Hospitals have subsequently reported increased numbers of nurses taking early retirement, taking positions in a non-bedside care setting or making a complete occupation change,” said Knox Andress of the Louisiana Emergency Response Network.

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Consequently, Andress said prospective patients at area hospitals should expect longer emergency room wait times and less nurses available for bedside care. He also said rural hospitals won’t be able to transport as many patients to the bigger, Shreveport hospitals. He said these issues may persist for at least 60 days.

Knox Andress, coordinator for hospitals in Louisiana's Region 7, speaks on December 31, 2021 for a press conference about COVID at Government Plaza.

Dr. T. Steen Trawick, CEO of CHRISTUS Shreveport-Bossier Health System said people should consider their primary care physician, urgent care facilities or online options before coming to emergency rooms. 

“Most of us have been able to adopt a really robust tele-medicine platform,” Trawick said.

Dr. Martha Whyte of the Louisiana Department of Health said the number of new COVID cases in the state is spiking. She said approximately 2,500 new cases are being confirmed each day, but believes 5,000 new cases are actually sprouting up.

Knox said the 25 percent of nurses hired with supplemental federal aid were cut in March, while another 25 percent were cut June 1 and the remaining 50 percent will be cut July 1.

nullKendrick Dante writes for the USA Today Network and is a government watchdog reporter in Shreveport, Louisiana. He enjoys cooking, concerts, and content. Email him at kdbrown1@gannett.com or connect on Twitter @kendrickdante.