Locums Digest 7: VISTA Supports Navajo Nation, Financial Impacts of COVID-19 & More Locums News

Locums Digest is Locumpedia’s roundup of hot topics, top stories, and social media posts of interest to the locum tenens and medical communities. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive Locums Digest before it’s published here.

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Vista Supports the Navajo Nation

(Edited from Business Wire News Release, September 3, 2020)

Showing commitment to the healthcare community, VISTA Staffing Solutions, Inc has partnered with Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation ( TCRHCC ) in Tuba City, Ariz., to send experienced clinicians, emergency funds, personal protective equipment (PPE) and other badly needed supplies to a hospital serving the Navajo community.

VISTA has placed more than 50 clinicians there over the last several months. With the hospital at maximum capacity and half its beds filled with COVID-19 patients between March and July, clinicians have worked tirelessly to fight the coronavirus while preventing infection among nonCOVID patients.

“At VISTA, we are so grateful to have been able to provide assistance to TCRHCC, and to serve the Navajo community 90 minutes outside of Flagstaff, Arizona,” VISTA Chief Operating Officer (COO) Andrea Nelson said. “They have been among the most severely impacted populations with a death toll of 468 and 9,223 positive cases. By providing PPE where it is needed most, we believe everyone involved will benefit.”

There are few communities that have experienced greater need during this global pandemic than the Navajo Nation, where there is also a severe water shortage. This area, which spans part of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, has surpassed New York and New Jersey as the highest COVID-19 infection rate in the US.

“Washing hands isn’t an option with no running water and having to get their water for the day from a public tap,” VISTA Division Director Kim Cogsdill said.

With limited funds, TCRHCC is actively collecting donations for its patients and community. VISTA has established a response-and-relief-donation shopping link for those who’d like to help.

“The appropriate PPE and supplies are essential in protecting patients and healthcare workers and controlling the spread of COVID-19,” VISTA CEO Christian Rutherford said. “We stand with the Navajo Nation and surrounding communities in the fight against this virus.”

TCRHCC Chief Executive Officer Lynette Bonar added, “We are grateful for the support and donation from VISTA, which helps us continue to provide patients safe, accessible, quality and culturally sensitive care as we fight this pandemic. We are a strong-willed and resilient community, and together we will persevere.”

Cross Country Healthcare Highlights Must-Address Issues for Healthcare

(Edited from “ The Financial Impacts of COVID ,” August 14, 2020)

In an August 14 blog post , Cross Country Healthcare (formerly Medical Doctor Associates, or “MDA”) observed that, while the locum tenens industry’s financial fallout from COVID-19 is widespread, no other industry faces more significant challenges than the healthcare sector.

With more than 30 years’ track record in providing locum tenens, temporary and temp-to-perm placements for physicians and advanced practice professionals, Cross Country advised: “As uncertainty remains about the arc of the pandemic and its financial ramifications, industry leaders [should] note the following:

  • Financial Concerns: “The AHA estimated that, as a result of canceled procedures and services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, US hospitals and health systems (those outside the federal system) stood to lose approximately $202.6 billion from March 1 to June 30, 2020–an average of $50.7 billion per month. This included canceled surgeries, various levels of canceled nonelective surgeries, and outpatient treatment,” according to the Cross Country post.
  • Workforce Implications: “While some facilities had been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, others had yet to see their first COVID-19 patient. As a result, demand for staffing has varied widely across the country. Some regions have seen tighter supply constraints than others, which has been exacerbated by the quarantine of so many healthcare professionals. These forces have created additional pressures on wage expectations and the movement of talent,” Cross Country noted.
  • Shortage of Experience: “In a 2017 article published in the Journal of Emergency Management , research findings showed that while 80 percent of [New York State] hospitals had disaster plans in place, only 17.5 percent felt their disaster plans were ‘very sufficient’ and did not require any revisions, according to Cross Country. “This situation presents an opportunity to identify best practices in emergency management protocol, to shore up executive training, and to establish ongoing education and recruitment practices to keep their organization ready should another global health crisis occur.”
  • Concerns for Rural Hospitals: Noting that “67 percent of rural areas are considered Health Professional Shortage Areas,” Cross Country pointed to dual financial impacts from COVID-19: first, the delay or cancellation of elective procedures and, second, increased spending for PPE and other medical supplies.

“As healthcare organizations face arduous, but necessary, reflection on their level of preparedness, successes, and lessons learned while uncertainty remains, healthcare industry leaders also should look to the future to adjust practices, policies, and planning in a post-pandemic world,” Cross Country concluded.

Medicus Announces Leadership Changes

(Edited from Cision/PR Web news release, September 2, 2020)

Medicus Healthcare Solutions ’ board of directors has appointed Joe Matarese as executive chairman and named Robert “Bob” Dickey as its new chief executive officer. As executive chairman, Matarese will continue to serve on Medicus’ board of directors, focusing on long-term strategy and on leading strategic initiatives for the company.

“We’ve been discussing this transition for some time, and it’s a natural progression,” Matarese said. “With his background of more than 20 years in staffing, Bob has done a fantastic job leading sales and operations since he joined (us), and we are thrilled for him. I’m highly encouraged with what I see in the company’s future. Our team is strong, and I look forward to continuing to support the company as executive chairman.”

Peter Magas, partner at Chicago-based Beecken Petty O’Keefe & Company ( BPOC ) said, “Joe has done an incredible job building Medicus into one of the largest locum tenens companies in the country, and we appreciate his vision and leadership over the years. (In partnership with management, BPOC led a recapitalization of Medicus in October 2018.) This transition is part of the company’s long-term strategy, and we know Bob will transition seamlessly into the CEO role. Bob has invaluable experience leading rapidly growing, large staffing companies, which will be instrumental for Medicus’ next phase of growth.”

Dickey served as chief operating officer at Medicus since August 2017. Before joining Medicus, he served as a group president at Randstad , a global staffing organization. Over more than two decades in the staffing industry, Dickey has been instrumental in producing extraordinary company growth, according to the September 2 announcement.

Senator Grassley Awarded for Locum Tenens Law

(Edited from Dickinson County News , September 1, 2020)

US Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), president pro tempore of the US Senate, received the “2020 Friend of Private Practice Section” award from the American Physical Therapy Association ’ s (APTA) Private Practice Section (PPS) during an August 25 campaign stop in Milford, Iowa. (To refresh your memory, as we did ours, the “president pro tempore,” a role required by the US Constitution, presides over the Senate, signs legislation, and issues the oath of office to new senators in the absence of the vice president of the United States.)

Local business owners, legislators and others gathered to hear the seven-term senator and to see APTA/PPS President Sandy Norby, owner of HomeTown Physical Therapy , present the award outside her business’ Milford location. Norby nominated Grassley for the award, citing his work on legislation he originated to extend locum tenens privileges to physical therapists. The bill became law in 2017.

And the Award Goes to…

We’ve heard a lot this year–including quite a bit from Locumpedia.com–about how badly COVID-19 has affected the healthcare and locum tenens industries. Let’s focus for a couple of minutes on some of the positives, like how companies in the locum tenens industry are being recognized for their good works and business successes. To name a few:

The Healthcare Staffing Story

Healthcare Jobs/Healthcare Staffing Outlook

(Edited from SIA’s Healthcare Staffing Report , August 13, 2020)

“In SIA’s (Staffing Industry Analysts’) June Pulse Survey, the healthcare staffing industry stood out above the rest in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to an August 11 news release. “In fact, the four healthcare segments were the only staffing segments to record positive growth: travel nursing continued to shine at 21% median growth, followed by allied (11%), locum tenens (10%), and per diem (6%).

“However, in SIA’s July Pulse Survey, all healthcare segments but travel nursing (up 14%) were negative year-over-year,” according to SIA. Despite the volatility in healthcare staffing between April 1 and end of June, “healthcare staffing companies are optimistic about their future prospects,” the analysts reported. “Seventy-nine percent of locum tenens staffing companies in the July survey predicted an increasing trend in new orders over the next six months. Similarly, a net 63% of travel nurse staffing firms, 63% of allied staffing firms and 47% of per diem staffing firms predicted growth in new orders over the next six months.”

As of August 20, SIA forecasted a decline in global staffing revenue of between 18 and 25 percent for 2020, depending upon the length and extent of COVID-19 outbreaks throughout the remainder of the year. SIA projects a “partial recovery” in 2021.

Healthcare Still Shedding Some Jobs

As of this writing the healthcare employment picture is a mixed bag. On August 24, Becker’s Hospital Review reported “24 hospitals bringing back furloughed employees” for June, July and August–a running list that will be updated “routinely.”

On August 7, HealthcareDive.com highlighted overall healthcare employment data, noting, “Healthcare job growth slowed in July, reflecting some effects of new coronavirus hotspots in late June that forced more shutdowns and overwhelmed hospitals in Sun Belt states.”

According to the brief, “Healthcare added 126,000 jobs in July with notable gains for dentists (+45,000), hospitals (+27,000) and physicians’ offices (+26,000). That’s slower than June’s growth of 358,000 healthcare jobs, and the industry is still about 800,000 jobs short from February’s levels.

“Nursing home job losses deepened with 28,000 more in July after losing 18,000 in June. Home healthcare services saw more gains with 16,000 new jobs in July, after (adding) 18,000 in June.

“According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) , healthcare jobs are projected to grow 14% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Erica Groshen, former BLS commissioner and current senior labor economics advisor at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, said it’s unclear what impact the pandemic will have on those predictions long term, but the structural changes it’s having on the healthcare industry are already apparent.”

Staffing Industry Veteran Stan Hirota Passes Away

(Edited from Staffing Industry Analysts’ Daily News , September 9, 2020)

Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) has reported that well-known staffing industry veteran Seiki “Stan” Hirota died unexpectedly on Aug. 26. “Hirota was chairman of the board and president of UHS Partners Inc., a subsidiary of Mitsui & Co. Ltd. that invests in healthcare staffing; healthcare education and HR tech firms. He was instrumental in bringing global staffing firm Recruit Holdings Ltd. to the US,” SIA said.

According to his SIA “Staffing 100” profile in 2019, Hirota in 2018 helped reposition some businesses of both The Delta Companies (TDC, where he served as chairman of the board and executive chairman) and Accountable Healthcare Staffing (AHS, where he served as chairman of the board) for future growth. This included “launching the Workforce Transformation and Consulting Division at AHS to help sustain a healthcare ecosystem with the oversight of AHS’ Board of Nursing executives.”

Hirota also served as a board member at The CSI Companies, SIA noted.

News to Use

AMA Announces New CPT Codes Related to COVID-19

(Edited from AMA news release , September 8, 2020)

The American Medical Association (AMA) has updated the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT®) code set that includes two code additions for reporting medical services sparked by the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The update was approved by the CPT Editorial Panel, the independent body convened by the AMA with authority to expedite the review of proposed modifications and additions to the CPT code set. The two additions to the CPT code set have been approved for immediate use.

“The CPT code set continues to quickly adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic to streamline the reporting of innovative tools and services now available to help reduce the COVID-19 disease burden, improve health outcomes and reduce long-term care costs,” AMA President Susan R. Bailey, MD, said. “This update is the latest in a series of modifications to the CPT codes set to meet the needs of the healthcare industry as medical advancements expand the fight against COVID-19.”

For quick reference, the two new Category I CPT codes and long descriptors are:

99072 Additional supplies, materials, and clinical staff time over and above those usually included in an office visit or other non facility service(s), when performed during a Public Health Emergency as defined by law, due to respiratory-transmitted infectious disease

86413 Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (Coronavirus disease [COVID-19]) antibody, quantitative

In addition to the long descriptors, short and medium descriptors for codes 99072 and 86413 can be accessed on the AMA website , along with several other recent modifications to the CPT code set that have helped streamline the public health response to the SAR-CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 disease.