The Cherry County Hospital Board of Directors met for a regular meeting Tuesday March 28th. During public comment time, local residents spoke about several recurring themes including the disparity between the wages paid to the hospital’s administration
versus that of the average Cherry County household earners. Also brought up, Andrew Ward had resigned his position from the board earlier in the week. It was suggested by a citizen that possibly the hospital board and administration may have pressured him off of the board. Concerns about lack of staff and the departure of current staff was also brought up.
After closing the public comment time, the meeting continued with comments by Dr. Kelli Sheer who stated that the hospital and it’s board needed to focus on the stated core values of integrity and unity, which she thought seemed to be missing at the hospital recently. On the topic of recruitment to the hospital, Cherry County Hospital CEO Kyle Kellum stated that recent studies warn by 2025, there will be a nursing shortage in Nebraska of around 5,000 nurses, with a projected shortage of 500,000 nationally in the coming years. Locally, it has been reported to KVSH radio that the hospital formerly had 12 charge nurses to execute and manage day-to-day operations at the hospital’s emergency room and in-patient care. Sources state that there are currently only 5 nurses staffed that are put in a “charge nurse” position. The hospital’s Chief Nursing Officer Nancy Hicks-Arsenault stated at the meeting that about a third of the floor staff including RN’s and LPN’s are nearing retirement age, which will have significant impact. The hospital is currently working on recruiting and hiring efforts to ensure quality patient care. Traveling nurses are being hired to help fill the gap in the nursing department, although many traveling RN’s are limited in their scope of practice, are not able to do what many full time applicants may be asked to perform plus cost significantly more.
On a positive note, CEO Kellum touted the hopital’s ER, with 3 Physician Assistants assisting the MD staff. This allows the hospital to offer 24/7 coverage which he stated is rare for a critical care hospital, such as Cherry County. Kyle stated that Cherry County Hospital is unique because these PA’s will be dedicated to the ER, rather than working in other patient care aspects, or being pulled away from the clinic, etc. 24 hour physician backup is also available in addition to the PA’s for emergencies such as OB deliveries. The meeting ended with a closed session discussion about personnel matters.