The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Hospital Workers Past the Breaking Point

Jan 17, 2022

Nearly a third of U.S. hospitals are experiencing critical staffing shortages, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Part of the problem is the massive spread of COVID, which this society has shown, once again, that it cannot control. In addition to flooding the hospitals with patients, COVID has been spreading like wildfire among hospital workers, forcing many out sick. But even those who remain healthy have been simply worn out. Many have quit healthcare altogether—and who can blame them, after two years of crazy-long shifts, few days off, and dangerous and exhausting working conditions?

In reaction to the staffing crisis, many hospitals aren’t even testing their own workers for COVID, afraid of the results they might find. As an infectious disease doctor in Memphis reported to Kaiser Health News: “Hospitals don’t want to know. We just don’t have the staff.” In California, Rhode Island, and Arizona, hospitals are asking workers who test positive for COVID to stay on the job. These measures can only accelerate the spread of the disease.

Hospitals in Illinois have reacted to the shortage by suspending “elective” procedures once again, including things like cancer surgery. But this just means non-COVID health problems will get worse.

And, of course, officials are once again blaming the sick: the Illinois Public Health director said, “our health care workers are burning the candle at both ends, and in the middle as well, to care for COVID patients who could have avoided hospitalization if they were up to date on their vaccine.”

Huge amounts of money have flowed into the healthcare system. That money should have been used to train more healthcare workers two years ago—with scholarships—so some would be ready to start now. But that money was swallowed up by pharmaceutical companies, equipment suppliers, insurance companies, drugstore chains, and hospital administrations.