Wisconsin's largest children's hospital has been struggling to care for patients in the wake of the Waukesha Christmas Parade attack in large part because of staffing issues stemming from its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, multiple sources tell “The Dan O’Donnell Show.”
18 children were brought to the Children’s Wisconsin Milwaukee Hospital with injuries suffered when a driver plowed into parade-goers Sunday afternoon. One of those children was among the six people killed when he succumbed to his injuries Tuesday afternoon. Several of the young victims remain in critical or serious condition, and sources say the hospital simply did not have enough nurses or support staff to adequately handle the sudden rush.
“It was a nightmare,” said one nurse, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she is not authorized to speak on the record. “We just don’t have enough people and [supervisors] were frantically calling in everyone they could, but it wasn’t enough. We are taking care of everyone the best we can, but it’s hard.”
A high-ranking official at Children’s, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the hospital currently has hundreds of open positions and attributes much of the staffing shortage to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The Children’s Wisconsin website lists 239 open positions at its Milwaukee hospital and more than 450 across all of its campuses.
Earlier this fall, Children’s set a November 15 deadline for all staff members to be fully vaccinated against COVID and boasted of 90 percent compliance.
“Almost all Children’s Wisconsin doctors have been vaccinated for COVID-19, demonstrating the confidence some of the world’s best doctors have in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mike Gutzeit said in a news release announcing the mandate. “We are thankful for their example and will continue to lean into their expertise and leadership as we engage with team members who are not yet vaccinated.”
Religious exemption requests were due September 15, and The MacIver Institute reported that more than 70 percent of them were denied.
On October 14, Children’s was forced to close its Delafield clinic until the end of December because of severe staffing shortages.
“This is because of the mandate,” one source said flatly. “People either quit because their exemptions were denied or didn’t even bother to apply. They just started looking for other jobs.”
On November 4, the Biden Administration mandated COVID-19 vaccines for all health care workers at facilities that participate in the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs.
“Ensuring patient safety and protection from COVID-19 has been the focus of our efforts in combatting the pandemic and the constantly evolving challenges we’re seeing,” said Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure at the time.
A nurse who was working Sunday night said the staffing shortage was so severe that even Children’s President and CEO Dr. Peggy Troy was working the Emergency Department floor.
“I know it was partly ceremonial to say ‘We’re all in this together,’ but it was also because we just needed all the help we could get,” the nurse explained. “Dr. Troy was there until at least 2 am.”
The shortages continue, the nurse said, and are so severe that she and other nurses who volunteer to work an additional 12 hours over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend will be given $4,500 bonuses.
The hospital official confirmed that administrators were giving out $1,000 bonuses to get nurses and other employees to work Sunday night into Monday morning.
Children’s Wisconsin has not yet responded to a request for comment on its staffing issues or the desperate measures it has undertaken to deal with the sudden influx of new, seriously injured patients.
This nursing shortage is not unique to Children’s, as hospitals across the country have reported significant issues since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the issue seems to have been dramatically exacerbated once hospital systems began requiring employees to be vaccinated.
The American Hospital Association reported in September that the number of full-time hospital employees dropped by four percent this year, but the cost of labor expenses for each patient has grown by 14 percent.
As more nurses and other employees leave the workforce, hospitals have been forced to dramatically increase salaries to entice them to stay or lure new workers onto their staffs.
One of the largest contributors is simply nurse burnout, as many have been overworked caring for COVID-19 patients in addition to the normal patient load. Nurses have also left the workforce amid a dramatic increase in unemployment benefits and COVID stimulus payments from the federal government.
But the major factor, multiple Children’s sources say, has been the vaccine mandate, as it has caused a sudden and dramatic decrease in staff levels.
“[Administrators] have been touting the fact that we have 90 percent compliance with the mandate,” one source said, “but that means that we have lost 10 percent of our workers who didn’t comply.”