Nursing shortage affects CAMC

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A nursing shortage at CAMC contributed to a $4 million decrease in the hospital's net revenue last month, the hospital's chief financial officer said."October appears to have rebounded, so we think it's just temporary," Larry Hudson said after a meeting Wednesday of the hospital's board of directors.Officials closed beds at CAMC Memorial last month because of a lack of nurses to care for patients, Hudson said. Closing the beds meant admissions were down for the month, he said.The hospital has an orientation class of nurses that will move to fulltime work soon, Ramsey said. That means the nurses will be able to care for more patients.During orientation, the nurses shadow more experienced nurses and take on patient loads gradually. The current orientation class has about 120 nurses, but a typical class has around 170, hospital spokesman Dale Witte said.CAMC CEO Dave Ramsey attributed the nursing shortage to the economy's recovery from the recession.When the economy bottomed out, a number of people who had not been working or who had been laid off found work in health care, Ramsey said. As the economy improved, many of those employees found other work, he said."Most of the nursing care on the floors is 24 hours, 365 [days a year]," Ramsey said. "Depending on people's life situations, some people just choose not to work in health care because of the difficulty working various shifts and so forth." Ramsey added that his theory was "nothing more than my guess."The University of Charleston recently got rid of its two-year associate nursing program, Ramsey said. Mountain State University -- another former source for nursing graduates -- lost its accreditation.Ramsey was unsure of the total number of nurses at CAMC and how many it would have at full staff."We don't want to leave the impression that people that come to the hospital are not going to have adequate nursing care," Ramsey said. "That's why we close beds, to make sure that we have adequate nursing talent to take care of our patients."
Hudson said the hospital has been working with local schools to encourage young people to get into nursing programs."We are seeing the results of those efforts now in our orientations and new hires," Hudson said.Also at the meeting, officials said if nothing changes, CAMC would no longer be part of Humana's network beginning next year.
Talks with Humana officials will continue, Ramsey said."We're always talking [with Humana officials]," Ramsey said the meeting. "I don't really want to go into specifics, but we're always hoping that things can be changed, improved."So, we'll continue to talk with them."In a statement issued late Wednesday night, Humana regional spokesman Jeff Blunt said talks between the hospital and the insurance company broke down because CAMC wants to be the only area hospital in the company's network."CAMC made it clear their goal in negotiations with Medicare Advantage payers is to direct and steer volume to their facilities," Blunt said. "This is best achieved when they are the only participating hospital system in the network."It became clear in our conversations that Humana could not achieve its goal of preserving contractual relationships with both hospital systems in the Charleston area."
CAMC will continue to accept Public Employees Insurance Agency members for all services, Blunt said. The insurance company insurances PEIA under a different contract in which there's no difference in member cost between in network providers and out of network providers, Blunt said.Humana is committed to continuing discussions with CAMC and hopes the hospital will reconsider its decision and remain in the company's network, Blunt said. Ramsey was unsure how many patients would be affected by the change and how it would affect the hospital's bottom line.Reach Lori Kersey at or 304-348-1240.
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