Hospital CEO: 'There are shortages across the board in health care'

NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital CEO Dr. Steven Corwin joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss daily covid hospitalization data, labor shortages, and the outlook on Omicron.

Video Transcript

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- Welcome back. The Biden administration's free mask site is now up and running, but the World Health Organization says the pandemic is, quote, "nowhere near over." So are leaders doing enough to keep COVID under control? Let's bring in our next guest, Dr. Steven Corwin from New York Presbyterian Hospital, to help answer that question. Doctor, Thanks so much for joining us.

So, even though cases--

STEVEN CORWIN: Thank you.

- --are trending lower in certain parts of the country, the death toll is rising, up to about 2,000 cases a day. So from your perspective, doctor, on the ground, do you believe that hospitals are getting enough support from the government on the federal and state level? What more can they do to offer support?

STEVEN CORWIN: Well, I think that we're getting enough support. Thankfully, the supply chain has been better. Certainly, in New York, it's been better, so we're thankful for that. That certainly was a huge issue for us in both prior surges.

But, look, this is a very infectious agent. And, even though the number of patients on ventilators, patients in ICUs, is trending less than with the Delta variant, you have more people infected. And, therefore, unfortunately, more people are gonna die.

And this is more across the entire country at this point in time instead of waves in various parts of the country. We peaked in New York, and we're starting to come down, which is good. We expect that we'll get dramatic reductions over the next month. The government has done a lot now in terms of rapid testing. I think they were slow on that one. That would help.

The giving out of masks will also help. Despite the mask controversy, masks work. So I think there are things like that.

And, in areas where you can't get enough personnel, I think states have been very good about getting the National Guard out. Fortunately, we've not needed that at New York Presbyterian. But there have been some sites in New York that have needed that. And the governor, Governor Hochul, has done a good job with that.

So, look, we're still not out of it. It's the third wave. And, hopefully, by the spring, it'll be better.

- Well, you're in an enviable position, Dr. Corwin, of not experiencing these big labor shortages that we see lots of hospitals across the country dealing with right now as their own staff is now out sick with COVID. What kind of labor issues, if any, have you been experiencing during this Omicron wave?

STEVEN CORWIN: Alexis, great question. We have experienced staffing shortages. We had to rely on traveling nurses, outside agency nurses, and we've been hiring at a record pace. Despite that, there are shortages across the board in health care-- radiology technicians, laboratory technicians, nursing staff, physician staff, et cetera.

And, to your point, I think you have a combination of the great resignation-- a lot of people left health care after the first wave or two-- as well as the issue of people getting sick and having to be out before coming back. And we've been conservative about bringing people back. I want people to feel that they're healthy. I want to make sure that they are testing negative and that they're well out from their symptoms.

So that's hurt us a little bit. But I didn't want to bring back employees too early, both for their own health and to make sure that they weren't affecting patients.

- To that end, doctor, you were making sure that you didn't bring them back too early. I'm wondering, you know, keeping schools open, particularly during this Omicron wave, has been a really hot button topic. I'm wondering where you stand on that because now, certain areas are having to bring in National Guard to help teach in school. And state workers are being, you know, allowed to sort of teach in schools as well. Should we have waited a little bit for the worst of the Omicron wave to have passed before bringing children back for in-person learning?

STEVEN CORWIN: You know, there are two sides to that coin. I think that our children suffer tremendously by the absence of in-person learning, plus you have the issues of child care. You have people not being able to get to work or take off from work to take care of their children.

So, despite the puts and calls on balance, I think in-person learning is really important for our children. That means that masking is really important. That means that, for children over the age of five, that vaccinations are really important.

Fortunately, children do not appear to get significantly ill with this, but they can infect each other. They can infect their parents. So it's not an easy call. But I think keeping the schools open this go-round is really important.

- All right. Dr. Steven Corwin, thank you so much for all the work you and your team are doing. New York Presbyterian Hospital CEO, thanks so much for your time.

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