BILLINGS — Hospitals are filled to capacity and Montana COVID-19 numbers are soaring to new highs.
Doctors and nurses agree that it’s a difficult situation and especially worse with the shortage of health care workers.
Gov. Greg Gianforte was at Billings Clinic Tuesday to present a plan to help bring more workers to Montana, which includes relocation reimbursements and other incentives.
“Recruiting and retaining health care workers has become an even greater challenge, a challenge our doctors, nurses, and other front-line health care workers have worn the brunt of,” Gianforte said.
Billings healthcare institutions aren’t down just a couple of nurses. At Billings Clinic, there are 120 Registered Nurse openings waiting to be filled while St. Vincent has 84 RN staff openings.
“It is unprecedented times. We’ve had record numbers, we’ve stretched our resources to meet the needs of our community,” said Billings Clinic interim Chief Medical Officer Michelle Pierson.
During his visit to the hospital, Gianforte, a Republican, announced the new recruitment program.
“The state of Montana will reimburse moving expenses for health care workers who move here to serve Montanans,” said the governor.
New employees can be reimbursed up to $12,500 for moving expenses, as well as 35% of the total reimbursement amount to offset expected payroll tax deductions.
Health-care providers must remain employed in Montana for 12 months to qualify for the program.
Billings Clinic has hired over 900 employees since the beginning of the year. Pierson supports the governor’s plan with the hopes that it will boost the clinic’s retention strategy.
“We’ve been looking at retention opportunities and now with this recruitment opportunity that’s a both-hand approach and I’m very excited for what we can do to further meet the needs of the people,” said Pierson.
The program is set to launch in early November and will be jointly administered by the state's Department of Labor and the Department of Commerce.