Nursing Positions Remain Vacant

The Cook County Health and Hospitals system in Illinois has numerous vacant positions — estimates range from 800 to 1415 — but even in this period of high unemployment, the positions remain unfilled.  The New York Times examined why that is:

According to Marisa Kollias, a spokeswoman for the system, decisions to fill vacancies must be approved by a recruitment and talent team in the human resources department and a position-control committee that assigns priorities to staffing the positions.

Adding to the delays, Ms. Kollias said, certain jobs that come open must be made available to union employees who lose their jobs elsewhere in the health system, and that can set off a series of reassignments based on seniority and union contracts.

“We are working diligently right now to get a number of these spots filled,” Ms. Kollias said.

But officials said hiring had been so slow that they were budgeting only enough money to fill one-fifth of the vacancies in the next fiscal year in order to free money for other expenditures.

The health system hired 204 new employees this year through mid-October, Ms. Kollias said, noting that the number was higher than the 125 added in the comparable period last year.

Asked at a budget hearing Wednesday how long it took to hire someone in the health system, Deborah Tate, director of human resources for the system, estimated an average of 90 to 120 days.

[…]

“It’s really a missed opportunity, and it’s a shame that they haven’t been able to fill the positions that they need,” said John Peller, vice president of policy at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

“We have asked, ‘So how’s it going?’ but you hear, ‘It’s the hiring process, it’s the bureaucracy,’  ” Mr. Peller said. “It’s really hard to understand why this continues to be where it is. I’ve also heard, ‘We’re about to hire somebody, we’re about to hire somebody’ a couple times.”

Commissioner Gainer said she, too, was disappointed that the position had remained vacant for so long.

“This is a tragedy for a population without good access to health care and reverberates through the community as a lost public health opportunity,” she said.

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