Rates for temporary nurses climb as high as $240 per hour; investigation urged

Coronavirus

Medical personnel adjust their personal protective equipment while working in the emergency department at NYC Health + Hospitals Metropolitan in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Hospitals across the nation have been pushed to the limit to maintain staffing levels during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a Monday letter to the White House urges an investigation into price gouging by “traveling nurses” and staffing agencies that took advantage of the situation.

The Nevada Hospital Association (NHA) made reference to the problem in a weekly update, saying some temporary help was paid more than $240 an hour.

A letter from U.S. senators Mark Kelly (R-Ariz.) and Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), and U.S. Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and David McKinley (R-West Virginia), called for an investigation

The average pay for a traveling nurse has soared from roughly $1,000 to $2,000 per week before the pandemic to $3,000 to $5,000 now, according to a report from The Associated Press in early September. Those numbers were attributed to Sophia Morris, a vice president at San Diego-based health care staffing firm Aya Healthcare. At the time, Morris said Aya had 48,000 openings for traveling nurses to fill.

Aya lists jobs available at Nevada health care sites on its website.

Aya and hospital chain Steward Health Care Systems LLC have been in a legal battle over the cost of traveling nurses since spring of this year, according to the Wall Street Journal. Steward does not operate any hospitals in Nevada

NHA states in its weekly report: “All hospitals know the current environment. Nurses are in short supply, and the price to secure temporary workers continues to increase, in some cases above $240/hr. Hospitals may have finally been heard. On Nov. 15, the White House was urged to investigate the price gouging of staffing agencies by a bipartisan group of both Representatives and Senators. The NHA will continue to monitor this situation.”

READ: Text of the letter to the White House seeking an investigation

Hospitals in Nevada have reassigned personnel and used other available mitigation efforts to keep adequate staffing levels, but the pandemic has often stretched hospitals to their limit.

NHA continues to assign “alert” status for hospital staffing statewide.

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