FRANKFORT, Ky. — Hospital beds are in short supply in Kentucky.

What You Need To Know

  • Kentucky hospitals are dealing with a shortage of staff and available beds

  • The Kentucky Hospital Association testified to state lawmakers Wednesday, asking for money to help recruit and retain staff

  • Republican lawmakers have urged Gov. Andy Beshear to call another special session to deal with the issue

  • Two proposals worth $150 million were introduced during the last special session, but not voted on

Kentucky Hospital Association president Nancy Galvagni said hospitals added 200 ICU beds in the last three weeks to keep up with new COVID-19 patients.

“And yet, even after doing that, there was fewer open ICU beds available because the beds were being filled as fast as we could create them,” she told state lawmakers during a committee meeting Wednesday.

Keeping staff around and hiring more during such a crunch has been difficult for hospitals, too.  

“Resources are strained, and hospitals large and small hospitals are all saying that they need help,” Galvagni said.

Multiple Republican lawmakers on the Interim Joint Committee for Health, Welfare, & Family Services asked Galvagni if vaccine requirements for hospital staff contribute to staff shortages.

“In talking with our members, they report the overwhelming majority of staff are receiving the vaccine,” she said. “And there has been no operational impact from adding this requirement.”

Galvagni said there are thousands of openings at Kentucky hospitals and the shortage was a problem before the pandemic. Now, many hospitals are also dealing with unvaccinated staff who can’t tend to patients because they’re in quarantine or isolation after exposure to the coronavirus.

Kentucky is also at a disadvantage trying to bring traveling nurses because the state doesn’t offer them as much money as other, wealthier states, she said.

Republicans have been urging Gov. Andy Beshear to call another special session to help hospitals deal with the staff shortage.

Two proposals they filed during the last special session earlier this month would spend $150 million to help them recruit and keep staff, and just to help keep them running smoothly.

Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, made a plea to the governor during Wednesday’s committee meeting.

“This group stands ready to act on this issue,” Alvarado said. “If you need a formal letter from me, but if you want to hear it directly through cameras because I know that’s how we like to communicate, I’m asking you now to call us into special session to handle this issue.”

On Monday, Beshear said the proposals rolled out earlier this month use money from the American Rescue Plan Act that isn’t there.

“I can’t call a special session when no one has presented me a plan and the dollars that are being suggested don’t exist,” Beshear said.

Alvarado said lawmakers can make it work.  

“If the concern is that there’s not funds there, we can re-designate those from other projects towards something that’s facing us right now,” he said. “And the longer we wait, the worse a problem it’s going to get.”

Lawmakers couldn’t pass the two bills during the last special session because the governor didn’t specifically call for them.