OPINION

Kansas needs to allocate funding to help hospitals keep skilled health care workers

The Editorial Advisory Board

The pandemic isn’t over. And our health care workers are overwhelmed and overworked. Yet they still show up and fight to keep Kansans safe day in and day out. Burnout is real and understandable — yet the need is great for their experience and expertise.

Lawmakers have been working to allocate a $50 million pot of money to help health care facilities retain their skilled workers.

The effort stalled, hopefully only for the short term.

Many Kansas hospitals have made the vaccination a requirement. The state’s four largest hospital systems — Stormont Vail, the University of Kansas Health System, Ascension Via Christi and LMH Health — all have mandates. On the other, is state Sen. Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican, who believes the vaccine mandates are infringing on an individual’s personal freedom.

The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Andrew Bahl reported Masterson pushed for the state to dole out the money now and have the option to claw it back later if it was determined staff quit over a vaccine mandate or if the funds, which come from federal pandemic relief funds, were misused.

A motion to stand up the bonus program with language excluding facilities with a vaccine mandate, however, failed in a 5-2 vote from the SPARK Executive Committee, which is in charge of doling out the funds.

From where we stand, Masterson and his supporters are in the wrong. Playing politics when we need to focus on supporting our frontline workers is out of line.

(Masterson insisted there had been a "false narrative," saying hospitals would have had time to re-evaluate their policies in light of the bonus program.)

The greater medical community is saying the COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and necessary. So it makes sense that hospitals would opt to make them a requirement for those who work in their facilities.

To suggest that vaccinations infringe on personal freedoms is a philosophical debate we simply don’t have time for. Stymying a much-needed relief package to ensure the quality care of Kansans over that bunk philosophy was inappropriate and potentially dangerous.

We need leaders to target keeping Kansans safe and health care workers motivated to heal. That’s going to take more than politically charged talking points. Until this pandemic is over, we as a state need to be laser-focused on the task at hand fighting the coronavirus.

Find a way to get this money allocated, so we can retain the Wheat State’s skilled nurses and doctors.