COVID-related staffing shortages delay opening of Holly Springs hospital

Coronavirus

HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. (WNCN) – The COVID-19 pandemic is delaying a hospital opening.

UNC Rex in Holly Springs was set to open on Sept. 20, but the chief operating officer said staffing and the surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations are postponing that.

Roy Tempke said 40 percent of Holly Springs employees are coming from UNC Rex in Raleigh, but with the rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations, they can’t transfer the employees because they need beds fully staffed.

“Actually, one of our intensivist doctors asked the question, ‘how are we gonna backfill the seven experienced respiratory therapists that you’re gonna take out to Holly Springs,’ and that really started the whole conversation,” Tempke said.

He said more than 200 new hires are already training, but they’re still hiring surgical techs, food service workers, and nurses.

“The hiring of nurses, and really other clinical positions, and honestly all positions in the organization, has been more difficult since the COVID surge and over the last year,” Tempke said.

The delayed opening comes as hospitals nationwide are impacted by nursing shortages.

A spokesperson for UNC Health said the hospital has about 1,000 vacant nurse positions systemwide.

In a statement, Duke University Health System said it has about 700 vacancies.

“Duke University Health System currently has an RN vacancy rate of less than 8%. However, DUHS is recruiting for about 700 nurses to accommodate both projected turnover and several expansion projects that will result in additional beds and expanded services.”

Mary Ann Fuchs, Vice President of Patient Care and system Chief Nurse Executive for Duke University Health System

CBS 17 also reached out to WakeMed and Cape Fear Valley Health to find out how many nursing vacancies they have. Neither has responded.

The North Carolina Nurses Association did a survey looking at the COVID-19 surge and burnout. It asked nurses to rank their well-being on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being ready to leave due to burnout. The average answer was 5.9, and 13 percent of respondents answered 10, according to NCNA. The survey had 463 respondents.

Tempke said the hospital will likely open in November, focusing on women and children, general surgery, and orthopedics.

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