North Shore Health Board increases levy as staffing issues continue
WTIP file photo

North Shore Health Board increases levy as staffing issues continue

The North Shore Health Board has set the levy for North Shore Hospital and Care Center at $1.5 million. 

During a North Shore Health Hospital Board meeting on Sept. 15, the board voted to increase the levy from $1.3 million to $1.5 million. This follows an increase in 2019 for the hospital levy from $800,000 to $1.1 million. Combined, the local hospital’s levy has gone up $700,000 in five years. 

Hospital Administrator Kimber Wraalstad said the increase is attributed to expenses, particularly employee salaries and benefits. “We had a 12.9% increase in our health insurance costs, and then all of the other supply things, but the biggest increase really was in salaries and wages.”

Wraalstad said salaries and wages account for 50% of operating expenses at the hospital. 

While the board thoroughly reviewed financial reports and various levy options, the board ultimately decided to raise the levy. “We just felt this was necessary for the good of the Cook County Hospital District,” said Wraalstad. 

Amidst increases in the levy, the hospital recently announced a temporary employee compensation adjustment for all employees. Starting Aug. 28, North Shore Health will provide a $3.00 per worked hour recognition payment for six months. The temporary compensation will end on Feb. 25, 2023. 

Wraalstad said that following nationwide and local hospital discussions of workforce shortage, the hospital decided to recognize the effort of all the employees and approve the temporary compensation. 

During the Sept. 15 meeting, the board members spoke at length about concerns regarding continued staffing shortages. Most recently, the hospital received a resignation from Troy Batchelor, director of nursing. 

Board member Steve Nielsen asked Wraalstad, “Why do you think this is a regular thing?”

Wraalstad attributed the reason for the revolving door position to “It’s a challenging role to be a director of nursing.” She added, “It’s not one that is, I think, appropriately recognized as being a challenge that it is.”

The hospital is actively recruiting for a new director of nursing. Wraalstad said the position would hold an interim director for a short period until the hospital finds a long-term replacement. 

The hospital board expanded discussion regarding high turnover rates in the hospital outside of the director of nursing position and brainstormed solutions to alleviate the workforce shortage. 

Board Chair Kay Olson inquired about creative ways to engage volunteers for the Care Center. 

Wraalstad said the high turnover rates are traceable to staff retirement, the stress of the pandemic, burnout, and continued mask and vaccine mandates for employees. “Healthcare is going through a staffing crisis that I don’t think has been seen before. “

Due to the staff shortage, the Care Center remains at an 83% occupancy rate. Wraalstad said, “Currently, we have 28 residents. We are licensed for 37. So we are down nine beds.” The Care Center currently has 30 individuals on the waitlist. 

In other hospital news, the two-year process to update the North Shore Health website is now completed. The process was a collaborative effort between community members and a design firm. 

WTIP’s Kalli Hawkins attended the North Shore Health Board meeting on Sept.15 and spoke with Wraalstad following the meeting. The audio from the interview is below.