Commentary: Massive Nurse Shortage Hits Houston, Weeks After 150 Unvaccinated Nurses and Hospital Workers Fired

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by Jon Miltimore

 

Jennifer Bridges knew what was coming when her director at Houston Methodist hospital called her up in June to inquire about her vaccination status.

Bridges (pictured above), a 39-year-old registered nurse, responded “absolutely not” when asked if she was vaccinated or had made an effort to get vaccinated. She was terminated on the spot.

“We all knew we were getting fired,” Bridges, 39, told CBS News. “We knew unless we took that shot to come back, we were getting fired today. There was no ifs, ands or buts.”

Bridges was one of more than 150 hospital workers fired by Houston Methodist hospital.

“All last year, through the COVID pandemic, we came to work and did our jobs,” said Kara Shepherd, a labor and delivery nurse who joined Bridges and other workers in an unsuccessful lawsuit. “We did what we were asked. This year, we’re basically told we’re disposable.”

Shepherd and her colleagues may be disposable in the eyes of hospital administrators, but they are perhaps not as easily replaced as she or Houston Methodist thought.

Two months after firing unvaccinated hospital staff, Houston Methodist is one of several area hospitals experiencing a severe shortage of medical personnel. Media reports say hospitals have “reached a breaking point” because of a flood of COVID-19 cases.

In an editorial published Tuesday, the Houston Chronicle said the 25-county hospital area that includes Houston had more patients in hospital beds—more than 2,700—than at any point in 2021. News reports make it clear that hospitals are struggling to keep up.

KHOU-11, a local news station, says medical tents have been erected outside of Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital but are vacant because of a shortage of nurses.

“Please send help now,” said Dr. George Williams (depicted in main photo), chief ICU medical officer for LBJ Hospital.

While most media reports focus on LBJ Hospital, reports also make it clear other hospitals, including Houston Methodist, are experiencing similar struggles. The Houston Chronicle says Harris Health System (which includes LBJ) is short some 250 nurses, while the University of Texas Medical Branch has requested an additional 100 nurses to help address staff shortages at four hospitals.

Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, a private Houston hospital jointly owned by Baylor College and a local healthcare system, said the hospital “is definitely being impacted” by the nurse shortage.

As for Houston Methodist, the hospital is reportedly struggling as well—although they’ve yet to admit it publicly.

“An internal memo at Houston Methodist Hospital said it ‘is struggling with staffing as the numbers of our COVID-19 patients rise,’” the Chronicle reports.

Public officials are scrambling to address the shortage, which has created a massive patient backlog throughout the Houston area. More than a week ago, Tex Gov. Greg Abbott requested out of state assistance for the statewide crisis, including 2,500 out of state nurses. LBJ Hospital officials said those nurses have not yet arrived.

The metro-wide shortage of nurses reportedly came to light when an ER doctor emailed a state senator about the dire situation in hospitals.

“The combined increase in volume from (COVID and) existing normal volume (and) nursing shortage has made this a terrible disaster at every ER and hospital in the city of Houston,” the physician wrote, according to the Chronicle.

It’s unclear to what extent Houston Methodist’s decision to fire 150 unvaccinated medical workers exacerbated the nursing crisis. For perhaps obvious reasons, hospital officials have been mum on the issue.

What we know is that Houston hospitals that did not abruptly fire 150 employees struggled to deal with the COVID spike, and in some cases people died as a result. So it’s safe to presume that Houston Methodist’s decision to fire 150 employees a few weeks before the Delta variant arrived in force didn’t make the situation any better and probably made it much worse.

Some may be tempted to think Houston Methodist was able to quickly replace the workers they lost, but evidence suggests this is unlikely. Apart from the broader shortage, front line nurses “are burned out,” they say.

“We are all tired of this; nurses are tired of this,” Texas Nurses Association CEO Cindy Zolnierek wrote in a recent public letter.

That Houston Methodist hospital didn’t intend to exacerbate its shortage of hospital staff goes without saying, but it’s also an important reminder about what economists call the Cobra Effect.

Every human decision brings about consequences, intended ones and unintended ones. Unintended consequences are so common economists often call them “Cobra Problems,” after an interesting historical event in India that occurred when the British Empire tried to eradicate cobras by putting out a bounty on them. (Can you guess what happened?)

When hospital administrators set their policy—get vaccinated or lose your job—their goal was to increase vaccination rates of hospital staff. The unintended consequence was a shortage of nurses and other hospital workers during a deadly pandemic.

In June, Houston Methodist’s president, Marc Boom, sounded confident that his coercive methods were effective, noting that almost 25,000 of the health system’s 26,000 workers were fully vaccinated.

“The science proves that the vaccines are not only safe but necessary if we are going to turn the corner against COVID-19,” Boom told employees in a statement.

Other Houston hospitals saw things differently. Two months before Houston Methodist fired its workers, Harris Health System officials announced they would not be requiring hospital workers to get vaccinated, noting none of the vaccines were fully approved by the FDA.

Americans will of course disagree about which CEO’s approach was the correct one. The pandemic, after all, has been bitterly divisive because we’re deeply divided over this very question: should coercive means be employed to achieve certain desired healthcare outcomes, and if so, to what extent?

In 2020, political leaders around the world said yes to this question, and the results were disastrous. A year later, private companies are playing a different version of the same game: take the vaccine, or get fired.

Like the lockdown champions of 2020, corporate leaders no doubt believe their action is moral, proper, and will achieve their desired result. But as the Cobra Effect reminds us, focusing strictly on desired outcomes and ignoring potential unintended outcomes is a good way to get bit.

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Jon Miltimore is the Managing Editor of FEE.org.
Photo “Jennifer Bridges” by Jennifer Bridges.

 

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26 Thoughts to “Commentary: Massive Nurse Shortage Hits Houston, Weeks After 150 Unvaccinated Nurses and Hospital Workers Fired”

  1. LM

    So , apparently, I stand corrected. We are a tiny little 47. 6% MINORITY. That better , Mr./Ms. Human? Oh, and one more thing- I agree with you 100% that unvaccinated nurses are a greater risk than vaccinated nurses. The COVID shot , however is a gene therapy , not a vaccine , and , it does not keep nurses , or anybody else ,from spreading COVID.

    1. Kathy3882

      Absolutely right!!! A news article just came out on that Pfizer Booster vaccine (third one). Apparently, the one you’re supposed to get every 5-6 months. According to the former developer who worked for Pfizer, developing the vaccine, its the booster that pushes the mRNA mutation development and kills the recipients.

  2. JustAnotherHuman

    Unvaccinated nurses present a greater danger to patients than vaccinated nurses. That is a simple matter of science and health safety. Of course they could get more nurses by just opening the gates to anyone, without any need for regular negative tests or any other safety measure. But that presents more of a health risk to the patients in the hospital as a whole than enforcing the requirement that nurses be vaccinated. They could also get more help by no longer requiring nursing licenses. A more extreme example, of course, but it’s intended as such to get the point across.

    1. Truthy McTruthFace

      greater danger how? the jab doesnt stop you from getting it, spreading it, dying from it. in fact studies are showing that jabbers may carry MORE viral load in their nose.

      every one of the ‘promises’ of the jab turned out to be untrue.

      sounds like you are safer with non-jabbed nurses

    2. Tim Price

      So the fact that the shortage of nurses just might result in the deaths of people, that does not matter to you? At least that is what it sounds like you are saying.

  3. Jesus HC Christ

    HERMAN CAIN AWARDS FOR EVERYONE ON THIS WEBSITE! Lol I look forward to reading these comments as part of a montage very soon.

  4. Brian

    I stepped away from two healthcare positions in Texas because of the vaccine mandates. I am not clinical, but there are very few people who can do what I do in the country.

    I told one of the hiring managers that I expected his hospital would be paying into a trillion dollar victim’s fund for those injured by vaccines one day.

    I have lost all respect for the American Hospital Association and hospital administrators playing Russian Roulette with the lives of some of the finest people on this earth.

    1. lori

      I have lost all faith in OSF healthcare. They refuse to listen and I’d like their CEO to be fired.

  5. Alley Oop

    So much foolishness here, so little time.
    The nursing shortage has been going on for decades, and isn’t a sudden consequence of the vaccine mandate. It is a consequence of burned out nurses tired of working long hours and finding their empathy drained when they work with non-vaccinated people dying of Covid.

  6. JH

    My wife’s last day was yesterday after 15 years with a hospital in NC. The admins short sightedness is getting people killed… we will survive!

  7. Tim Price

    Well, I guess the idiot liberals got what they asked for. Liberals say Don’t treated the unvaccinated. I guess Don’t send help to those who fired their staff is just as appropriate!

  8. Yahweh Rules

    My brother has worked for a hospital for 30 years. He was told last week that he had to get vaccinated or would be terminated without unemployment benefits. Funny thing is, this did NOT APPLY TO THE DOCTORS. HMMMM, THATS ODD. He had COVID last year and CDC website says you have more antibodies than vaccinated. I don’t know what his decision was yesterday, but I felt sorry for him being put in a situation where it’s your livelihood. It should be a choice. We have no idea what the long term affects will be. I got Pfizer and my normally controlled blood sugar has skyrocketed, and blood tests showed changes in kidney tests… so who knows.

  9. LM

    Well , JB, it looks as if you have been bitten by the mass media bug. In case you were unaware or are still in denial, 50 percent of this country-including healthcare providers, are not getting the jab. If you want to call someone a sheep , that’s your choice – and no, that is not the majority. Also , you need to find out the definition of a vaccine while you’re at it. Am I smarter than my peers? Maybe more informed, how about that? And no , I am not ashamed of the truth , despite attempts of the cancel culture and mass media to plunge our country , and the world into the new dark ages. Educate yourself. Per the CDC, the death rate is lower in many states with low rates of people who have had COVID shots than in many states with high rates of people who have had shots. And by the way , I do not discourage patients from getting shots. I tell them to read up on it and make the decision that is best for them, but guess what BL, I get to be a patient myself , and not you or anybody else gets to tell me what my health decisions will be.

    1. JustAnotherHuman

      FYI – 52.6% of Americans are already vaccinated, and that number is only getting higher. The unvaccinated are the minority within the United States.

  10. 83ragtop50

    Methodist Hospital in buried in the midst of a very liberal city. If there is any doubt just recall that Shelia Jackson Lee from Houston has been in Congress forever. I view Methodist as a twin to Vanderbilt. Too busy being woke to do their jobs.

  11. Lori Davis

    She should not be forced to get the vaccine. It is her/their choice. Now we are having “our rights” taken away. What happened to the constitution/Amendment?
    My sympathy goes out to these hard working men and women for the United States forcing them to do something like this against their own will. The Govt should be ashamed.

  12. Steve Allen

    The hospital must be run by liberals, they’re the only group that is stupid enough to not know the results of their inane actions.

  13. Russ Crouch

    This of course is a great surprise to the hospital. With a nursing shortage all across the country, these people fire nurses. It really is hard to understand.

  14. LM

    Go ahead all you hospitals and health care centers- fire us en masse over a shot that is not only useless , but dangerous! Go ahead all you idiot crooked governments- require COVID shots for us nurses and see what happens! I have been a nurse for 30 years and the second some power grabbing stupid moron tells me I have to get a COVID jab, I’ll find another career. If that’s the way the world is going , I’ll live off of the grid. I have always gotten all of the true vaccines , and will continue to do so, to protect my patients. The COVID jab is not that at all.

    1. BL

      With that attitude, you deserve to be fired. You have gotten all the “true vaccines” yet the COVID 19 vaccine is useless and dangerous…. You are dangerous for spreading fear… are you saying that the majority of physicians, nurses, scientists, and yes, politicians who have been vaccinated are sheep? Are you saying that you are smarter than your physician and nursing peers? Where’s your data? You should be ashamed of yourself. This wave is known as the unvaccinated pandemic, thanks to you and the other nay sayers.

      1. Mike

        Hey ! Who are you to dictate Do you think. Your smarter than. Everyone else , Let me fill you in , My body belongs to me not you or the government , if you decide to take the shots that is your prerogative , I don’t believe the jabs have been studied long enough to truly say that they are safe & effective long term , the jab went from 1 dose to 2nd dose now their saying a booster is required maybe another booster an another No , I am not going to be any part of this experiment. Do you trust this government with your life ?

      2. Pat Beyer

        Not only are you a Karen but you are ignorant and by that I mean uninformed. Before you spout off again please do some research and then you won’t sound like a complete idiot. Research what is in the vaccines and how many people who have gotten the vaccine have died and how many have also gotten infected with covid after taking the vaccine which they now say you have to get at least one booster and some say get a booster every 8 months, along with telling everyone to wear a mask which will not stop a virus as it is to small to be stopped by a mask. Even dr.faucci wrote about how more people died from infections from wearing a mask than from the Spanish flu.

      3. JB Taylor

        BL you obviously know nothing and are proud to show it. You are a sheep and bleeting because someone is standing up to the wolves. The vaccinated are spreading the virus, the CDC said so themselves, they also just posted the the First round of vaccines made the sickness worse and easir for the vaccinated to get. You need to keep up and quit you bleeting you mutton head.

      4. Bob

        If you are vaccinated
        Why are you concerned about anyone else s decision not to get vaccinated
        If the vaccine truly works
        You have nothing to be concerned about

        Why haven’t the FDA approved theses vaccines

        Not your s or anyone else decision to force your will

      5. WholeyMozees

        BL, it’s obvious “they” are smarter than you. Follow the “real” science !!

      6. Dan

        You are blind as the bat that started COVID ….oh wait that was a big lie just like the rest of this bullshit.

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