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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 or 202.585.0127 with questions.


About the Author

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

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