Iowa to spend more than $9M for nursing help at hospitals


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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa anticipates spending $9.2 million to shore up health care staffing at strained hospitals amid the latest COVID-19 surge.

Iowa Capital Dispatch reports that 100 out-of-state nurses and respiratory therapists began arriving in Iowa earlier this month. They are being placed in 17 facilities in Davenport, Des Moines, Iowa City, Mason City, Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, Waterloo, Council Bluffs, Ames and Sioux City.

The state will spend about $15,000 per nurse for each of the next six weeks. The amount is high because the state will pay $220 per regular hour to a Kansas staffing company for each supplemental nurse, and $330 for each of the overtime hours that the nurses are expected to work each week.

Sarah Ekstrand, an Iowa Department of Public Health spokesperson, said federal funding will cover the cost.

The same staffing agency also provided 100 nurses for most of December 2020 and January 2021, Ekstrand said, and 68 of those nurses also worked the first week of February. The total bill for the supplemental nurses during that period was about $6.9 million, Ekstrand said.

Jennifer Nutt, of the Iowa Hospital Association, has said “hospitals are in a staffing crisis.” That has driven up the cost of finding temporary help.

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