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Mullin' It Over Column

Putting Our Health Care Workers First

I want to take the chance this week to say thank you to the hardworking nurses in Oklahoma who work around the clock taking care of our loved ones. The way you have stepped up during the pandemic is not lost on me and I thank you for fighting the good fight day in and day out.

 

With your service in mind, there has been some bad information floating around that the House is trying to cap nurses’ pay. This could not be further from the truth, and I want to set the record straight: I, for one, do not support capping pay for nurses. Period.

 

Recent reports speculate that nurse staffing agencies are using the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased need for nurse services as a reason to raise the service prices to exorbitant amounts. These agencies are charging hospitals triple what they had previously charged, and it appears they haven’t been passing the increased amounts onto the nurses.

 

Unfortunately, many hospitals find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. They are forced to either pay these extremely high rates due to the dire workforce needs, placing an extreme financial burden on these facilities that are already struggling to make ends meet. Or they must cut services, jeopardizing access to health care for the community.

 

In response to these claims, I joined almost 200 of my House colleagues in sending a letter to the White House Coronavirus Task Force calling for an investigation into the conduct of these staffing agencies and to determine whether or not they violated the law.

 

Nurses play a vital role in America’s health care system. They are key components of every functioning hospital and nearly every patient will interact with a nurse while there. Especially in rural communities, like our district, traveling nurses help keep our small hospitals running and ensure access to quality care for all health-related needs. We should be doing everything we can to bring more nurses into the workforce, not drive them out.

 

I am a strong supporter of free enterprise. It is not the government’s job to set nurses pay or get involved in their contract negotiations. Our job is to conduct oversight and, in this case, make sure the staffing agencies are not taking advantage of the workforce shortage for their own financial gain. Nurses should always enjoy the fruits of their own labors.

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