Merit Health River Region among Mississippi hospitals receiving state-contracted workers

Published 4:19 pm Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency is currently contracting with four vendors to provide medical personnel to 61 hospitals statewide to meet the staffing shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including Merit Health River Region in Vicksburg.

The Mississippi State Department of Health is coordinating with applicable licensing boards to vet the licenses of all healthcare workers who are contracted. Vendors are selected based on pricing and staffing availability. The state is currently contracting with the following vendors: H&S, Snapnurse, GQR and Maxim. Additional vendors have been contacted to assist in medical staffing shortages.

“We are doing whatever it takes to get boots on the ground in our hospitals. Today, we are deploying over 1,000 healthcare personnel within 9 business days of the initial request. Our top priority is to ensure that every Mississippian who can get better with quality care receives that care. We are grateful for those that are answering the call to alleviate the pressure on our healthcare workers. To the current healthcare staff in the state, we thank you for your continued dedication to our fellow Mississippians,” said Governor Tate Reeves.

Starting Aug. 24, 808 nurses, three certified registered nurse anesthetists, 22 nurse practitioners, 193 respiratory therapists and 20 paramedics will deploy to 50 hospitals. Onboarding medical staffing is a phased-in approach. Level 1 and 2 trauma hospital requests have been fulfilled; Level 3 hospital requests are being processed and fulfilled. All staffing requests should be met by the end of the week.

According to Merit Health River Region CEO Benjamin Richaud, the hospital welcomed 10 contracted workers on Tuesday.

“Merit Health River Region welcomed 10 contract medical workers who were deployed by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) in cooperation with the Mississippi Department of Health (MSDH),” Richaud said in a statement. “Eight of the contract workers are nurses and two are respiratory therapists. The additional help is much appreciated and will provide needed support for our current staff, allowing us to care for more patients.”

Merit Health River Region currently has 34 COVID-positive inpatients; however, the number is fluid.

“Medical staffing provided by the state is for the COVID-19 mission to address the surge of patients due to the Delta Variant. Our staff has worked tirelessly to give our hospitals the relief they need and deserve. We are working with FEMA to secure reimbursement for these contracts worth roughly $10 million a week statewide for eight and a half weeks. MEMA stands ready to coordinate any additional resources needed,” said MEMA Executive Director Stephen McCraney. MEMA is requesting an expedited federal reimbursement from FEMA to cover the costs of medical staffing contracts.

The medical staffing needs advertised in the original ‘request for quote’ included 65 physicians, 920 registered nurses, 41 CRNAs, 59 nurse practitioners (APN), 34 physician assistants, 239 respiratory therapists and 20 EMT paramedics. Nineteen vendors supplied RFQs.