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Hospitals Paying $24B More for Labor during Pandemic

Hospitals are paying $24 billion more per year for qualified clinical labor than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a data analysis by Premier Inc.

Among clinical employees in the emergency department, intensive care unit (ICU), and nursing staff, clinical labor costs are up an average of 8 percent per patient compared with 2019 costs. For the average 500-bed facility, that translates to $17 million in additional annual labor expenses.

Overtime and agency staff are driving up costs, along with sick time and turnover:

  • overtime hours are up 52 percent as of September 2021 compared with the pre-pandemic baseline period in 2019;
  • use of agency and temporary labor is higher than 130 percent for full-time and part-time workers;
  • Uue of sick leave is up 50 percent for full-time clinical staff and more than 60 percent for part-time employees; and
  • annual turnover in the emergency, ICU, and nursing departments has increased from 18 percent to 30 percent during the pandemic.

Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at eomalley@essentialhospitals.org or 202.585.0127 with questions.

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About the Author

Julie Kozminski is a senior policy analyst at America's Essential Hospitals.

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