Not enough nurses to address COVID-19 outbreak, East Tennessee hospital officials say


Gurney in hospital hallway

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WKRN/WJHL) – Northeast Tennessee’s COVID-19 percentage rate sits at around 16%, which is higher than the state average. This is now prompting the health care system to increase its surge plan. All while a nursing shortage continues to increase.

Across its system, Ballad Health has roughly 3,500 nurses, but they need more.

“There are no longer enough nurses to fill the need that we have,” Ballad Health Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer Lisa Smithgall said.

Ballad Health Chief Administrative Officer Eric Deaton said the system has had more than 900 patients admitted for COVID-19 in the last eight weeks. After hitting 200 inpatients this week, the health care system has adjusted its COVID-19 surge plan to receive 300 inpatients.

“These numbers represent lives, they’re non-encouraging. In fact, it’s really becoming a tragedy in the increased rates that we’re seeing,” said Deaton.

Officials announced the hospital system is looking to hire 350 registered nurses to fill its nurse shortage. Eligible candidates can apply here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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