Cape Fear Valley Medical Center facing staffing shortage on heels of receiving COVID-19 vaccine

Cumberland County News

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — As Cape Fear Valley Medical Center waits for the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines to arrive next week, they’re struggling to find enough staff to fill the surge of patients they’re seeing.

First responders set up tents outside the hospital Thursday to help with overflow.

The tents can fit up to 30 additional patients.

Dr. Sam Fleishman estimates about 50 beds are closed right now because there isn’t enough staff to cover them.

“We are having significant shortages in nursing staff and nursing assistants,” Dr. Fleishman said. “We are struggling to keep all of our beds open as a result of it.”

“We are definitely feeling the surge right now,” Chief Nurse Susan Dees said. “They’ll go over into the corner and have a nice little cry and come back and do what they have to do.”

Dees says she needs about 200 more nurses right now.

“We are competing with the whole entire world to get those nurses in,” Dees said. “There is no bad idea. We are going to look at each and every idea and think outside the box on things. Whatever we can do to get folks in here.”

The good news, about 100 nurses aides are graduating this week from Fayetteville Technical Community College.

Most of them already have jobs, says Denise Pate, Department Chair of the Nurse Aide Division.

She says healthcare industries are “begging for my students.”

“There is such a shortage of nurse aides right now that they are giving them a hiring bonus of $5,000,” Pate said.

Department Chair of Practical Nursing Renee Ellis says 53 students graduated in July, and 75 more students started the nursing program in August.

“They’re working as CNA’s mostly so they see what’s out there, they help take care of the patients who are sick, so it’s not as scary for them as it is for others who don’t have any experience,” Ellis said.

Dees says the medical staff is resilient, but the amount of patients they’ve seen this year is taking a toll.

“We’ve seen such sorrow – people who were well when they came in just decompensating right in front of our eyes no matter what we did,” Dees said. “We are trying to be strong for our families and our patients.”

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