New COVID cases continue to plummet in New Jersey but after two years of an up and down pandemic roller coaster, Garden State hospitals are now struggling with rising costs and an across-the-board health care worker shortage.

Cathy Bennett, the president and CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association, said since the pandemic began there has been an ongoing COVID strain, and “we’re seeing its impact on our clinical staff, we’re seeing its impact on our non-clinical staff, with folks that provide environmental services, food service workers or IT.”

“Vacancy rates are hitting us across the continuum, whether it is for clinical or non-clinical positions,” she said.

Not enough nurses

Bennett said the nurse vacancy rate in hospitals has gone from 8.2% in 2020 to 13.4% last year.

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The vacancy rate among respiratory therapists has gone from 7.6% to 9.7% and labor shortages for many other types of professions related to hospital care and operations have increased from 7.4% to 8.8% over the past year.

Higher costs

To address these gaps Bennett said hospitals are spending a whole lot of money.

“This year alone we’ve infused over $600 million in agency staffing support so that we’re able to continue and provide care to our (hospital) populations,” she said.

She said moving forward, hospitals are going to be continuing to rely on agency staffing to supplement hospital staff, but costs must be brought under control.

“In just a 12-month period there we saw a 202% increase in hourly rates in agency staff, so that’s not sustainable,” she said.

Additionally, she said the pipeline of new healthcare workers needs to be strengthened.

Tri-State EMS Workers Confront Growing Number Of Coronavirus Cases
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“We need to explore and invest and also make sure we reimburse for less human-intensive technologies and care models, things like telehealth and digital health,” said Bennett.

She also noted health care worker retention strategies must be emphasized “and they’re doing things like wellness support, child care support, more flexible scheduling.”

She stressed while all of these approaches will help to close the labor shortage gap, we must fundamentally get a handle on COVID-19 “because we know reduced COVID cases in our hospitals is going to remove a lot of this volatility hospitals have seen.”

Every NJ pizza joint Barstool's Dave Portnoy has reviewed

Dave Portnoy, commonly known as El Presidente, is the founder of Barstool Sports. Somewhere along the way, he decided to start reviewing local pizzerias, and the concept took off. Here is every New Jersey pizzeria Dave has stopped in, along with the score he gave them.

Best coffee shops & cafes near NJ beaches

When it comes to food, New Jersey is known for many things such as pizza and pork roll. Don't count us out when it comes to coffee.

With all the hustle and bustle involved in the average New Jersey resident's day, coffee is essential. It doesn't matter whether you're living in the cities of North Jersey or the vacation spots at the shore.

In fact, as the former owner of two Jersey shore coffee houses, Coffee Dot Comedy in Sea Isle City and the Daily Grind in Ocean Grove, I know firsthand how much people at the Jersey shore love their coffee.

With respect to that, I asked my social media following where the best coffee houses at the Jersey Shore were, especially since my two places no longer exist.

Below is what they came up with. (And see this other article for their coffee shop and cafe recommendations for Central Jersey.)

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