Here's how much money each Kansas hospital gets from $50 million in COVID-19 aid for nurse bonuses

Jason Tidd
Topeka Capital-Journal
Kansas determines COVID-19 aid for hospital nurse bonuses.

State officials have released the amount of COVID-19 aid funds allocated to Kansas hospitals to help retain nurses.

The Kansas Office of Recovery released the total allocations on Monday, detailing how $50 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding will be split among health care facilities.

Allocation information from the Frontline Worker Retention Program are available below in a searchable database.

"This $50 million will help us retain and attract more frontline hospital workers as we continue to fight his virus," Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, said in a news release. "For over 18 months, our heath care workers have risked their lives every day to protect Kansans from COVID-19 — it’s our responsibility to make sure they have the support they need to continue.

"In the meantime, I encourage all Kansans to do their part to beat this virus by getting vaccinated immediately."

The money was approved last month by the bipartisan Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas executive committee.

"It’s encouraging to see the Governor move forward with our request for extra pay for nurses," Speaker of the House Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, said in a statement to The Capital-Journal.

"It’s no secret that our hospitals are experiencing a serious nursing shortage, and that our nurses are going above and beyond every day to help fill the gaps. While I wanted to see additional flexibility in this plan for our hospitals and the option for a local match, this is a good step toward addressing the problem and recognizing the pressures on our frontline nursing professionals."

More:‘We need you in Kansas’: Officials finally approve rules for $50 million nurse bonus program

Recovery Office information shows $49.5 million split among 122 facilities. Funding was based on bed counts, including the number of ICU beds.

The largest allocation went to Ascension Via Christi Hospitals Wichita Inc., which received more than $7.5 million.

In Topeka, Stormont Vail Health was allocated more than $2.5 million. The facility has 586 beds, of which 64 are ICU beds. The St. Francis campus of The University of Kansas Health System was allocated nearly $1.7 million for a facility with 378 beds, including 24 ICU beds. Topeka ER & Hospital, which has 14 beds, was allocated nearly $56,000.

Two facilities aren't receiving any money. Mercy Hospital in Columbus declined funding while Stevens County Hospital didn't respond to state officials.

COVID-19 cases drop despite high levels of hospitalizations, deaths

The aid comes as COVID-19 indicators descend from a surge fueled by the highly contagious delta variant. Despite improving rates of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths, the state and most of its counties are still classified as areas of high community spread, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention metrics.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment COVID-19 data show adult hospitalizations and ICU admissions peaked in late August, but still remain at levels last seen in January. Pediatric hospitalizations peaked in mid-September and remain higher than during the fall and winter surge last school year.

"The best news is the fall of the number of new patients that we're seeing," said Steve Stites, the chief medical officer at The University of Kansas Health System, during a Monday media briefing. "That is just great. That's the result of people getting vaccinated, people wearing masks and unfortunately people getting a lot of delta. Remember that that protection doesn't last forever; you still need to get vaccinated in the long run."

Stites said widespread vaccination "will keep us all safe" and allow places to reopen without masks.

Hospitals fight staffing shortages, burnout by nurses 

Health care administrators may use the funding for premium pay, or to fund a program "to improve the retention of nursing resources and support personnel" at the facility. Funds can be used for bonuses up to an extra $13 per hour of work, with a maximum of $25,000 per individual.

"Premium Pay may be distributed by the Qualified Facilities to frontline employees in the manner that they believe is most appropriate to ensure the retention of critical resources and the maintenance of staffed hospital beds," program policies state.

Compliance standards established by SPARK require facilities to report various nursing staff statistics, including the number of terminations and the reason.

Vaccine mandates at health care providers and elsewhere have come under attack by some Republican politicians who say such requirements could further worsen workforce challenges.

More:Kansas Republicans challenge Joe Biden's COVID vaccine mandate. Can they really do anything to stop it?

Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, failed in an attempt to block the SPARK aid from going to facilities with "counterproductive" vaccine mandates.

"My only fear is we’re going to give some of them premium pay and we’re going to give some of them a pink slip," Masterson said last month.

Hospital officials have indicated that vaccine mandates are not to blame for staffing problems. At The University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City, officials said last month that respiratory therapists were quitting because of burnout from treating a new wave of primarily unvaccinated coronavirus disease patients.

The health system, which has 979 total beds and 196 ICU beds, was allocated nearly $5.5 million.

At Topeka's Stormont Vail, CEO Robert Kenagy said in a Sept. 15 COVID-19 update that the system's hospital and clinics had a combined 252 job openings for health care workers.

"The vast majority of our shortages are the result of nursing staff leaving for travel nursing positions, retirements and illness of team members or family members," Kenagy said in a Sept. 15 daily update. "These are not staff members who have resigned because of the vaccine requirement for team members and medical staff."

Legislative leadership have established a Special Committee on Government Overreach and Impact of COVID-19 Mandates. The committee is tasked primarily with finding ways to fight President Joe Biden's proposed vaccine mandates for federal employees and contractors, health care facilities and large private employers.

More:'I'm just seeking the truth': Senator on Kansas anti-mandate panel questions COVID vaccine safety

The committee has yet to schedule its first meeting. Republican members were named a week ago, but Democrats have not announced who they will appoint — if anyone — to the committee.