By Matthew Peirce, Des Moines
If you live in Iowa, you have an interest in what goes on at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.
UIHC is the most comprehensive health care center in our state, serving all our residents and those from large swaths of neighboring states. I underwent major surgery there, and in the years since, have relied on my team there, even after I moved from Iowa City.
Staffing at UIHC has been declining for years, and is now nothing short of dire.
COVID has stretched these caring and dedicated public employees to the brink, and pushed them over the edge; never have we demanded so much of our medical professionals; never have they felt so unappreciated. In 2019, more than 200 staff and professionals with more than 10 years of experience left UIHC. In 2020, the exodus exceeded 400.
Experience is leaving UIHC for some basic reasons: low pay (Iowa is 48 out of 50 states for RN pay), confusing and unfair overtime policies, and severe burnout as many units restricted vacations before COVID, some now banning vacations for up to a year.
But our state has the resources to stop hemorrhaging experienced professionals. Iowa can invest in competitive wages and boost UIHC’s sagging morale. Last June, UIHC ended the fiscal year $14 million in the black. Due to the herculean efforts of staff, the pandemic didn’t completely shutter elective surgeries, and as COVID vaccines roll out, all surgeries will resume, increasing revenue. Additionally, the state’s budget surplus was $305 million.
For almost a year, we have demanded UIHC staff treat us at a scale never seen. Let’s treat them with the respect they deserve and reward their selfless dedication with competitive pay and working conditions that convey our appreciation. We can’t afford to do otherwise.