Staffing Shortage Causes Vermont Hospital to Cut Back on Security Officers

There are now half as many available workers for every open job in the country compared to the average over the past 20 years.

Like many businesses across the nation, the Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital is struggling to fill positions, most notably in its security department.

Due to a staffing shortage, the Caledonia County Sheriff’s Department can no longer provide 24/7 security at the hospital, reports the Associated Press, as it saw employment numbers drop from 23 people pre-pandemic to 11 currently. It’s a drastic change for the Sheriff’s Department, which has provided full-scale security at the hospital since 2012.

The fallout comes as no surprise, as organizations across the nation struggle to properly staff their workforce. According to an April 2021 jobs report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of the end of March, there were 8.1 million job openings, an all-time high and the fastest rate of growth since mid-2020. Unfortunately, businesses and other employers can’t fill the openings due to a significant decline in the Worker Availability Ratio (WAR), which is calculated by dividing the number of available workers by job openings. The current WAR reveals that there are now half as many available workers for every open job in the country compared to the average over the past 20 years.

Industries reporting even lower WAR numbers are education, health services, government, and professional and business services. The decline in security at Northeastern Vermont Hospital is just one example of the hardship hospitals are facing.

“We’re stretched pretty thin right now,” told Sheriff Dean Shatney to AP News. “We’ve got to think outside the box, being short-handed like this, until we can get staffed back up.” Until then, he said security coverage at the hospital would be random. To help fill the gaps hospital CEO Shawn Tester said he is looking into solutions such as hiring a private security company, pointing to the increasing need for security as mental health issues increase.

“The hospital has become the vector for those experiencing mental health crisis,” he said. “There are not enough psychiatric beds in the state. It’s our duty and responsibility to care for those patients and sometimes they can be dangerous.”

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