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AZ hospitals continue to struggle with staffing and negative operating margins

Hospitals across the state are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Staffing shortages and financial challenges are two big pain points for this industry.

Ann-Marie Alameddin is the president and CEO of the Arizona Hospital and Health Care Association. She says hospitals continue to be busy, "which might mean longer wait times for patients seeking care in the emergency department."

And it’s across the Valley. The challenge? Staffing.

"I think that is sort of the number one thing that's keeping a lot of hospital leaders up at night right now is the workforce shortages," she said. 

So if you don’t have nurses or other staff, you can’t open beds, for example. Then there are the operating costs. 

"And really across Arizona, we saw negative operating margins that were as low as negative 6%. In quarter two to a negative point 5% at the end of quarter for 2022," Alameddin said. 

Alameddin says these margins eventually impact patient care. 

"And that's where I think patients can feel that, that pinch. What does this mean for patients trying to get services? And it may be, you know, longer wait times to schedule surgery," she said. 

She says hospitals need to have a positive operating margin of at least 4% to 6%, to both remain afloat and  reinvest in their facilities.

Senior field correspondent Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.