‘What You Need to Know:’ Nursing shortages, vaccine mandates for health care workers and former Pa. secretary of health is now a 4-star admiral

Written by on October 22, 2021

‘What You Need to Know:’ Nursing shortages, vaccine mandates for health care workers and former Pa. secretary of health is now a 4-star admiral

By Brad Klein and Tyler Pratt

October 22, 2021

LVHN front-line nurse Chantal Branco receives the first COVID-19 vaccine on December 17, 2020 through Emergency Use Authorization. Photo/ Lehigh Valley Health Network

In our regular Friday feature, “What You Need to Know,” WLVR’s Brad Klein speaks this week with WLVR’s Tyler Pratt about the week’s top local news. This week: nursing shortages in the Lehigh Valley; vaccine mandates in area hospitals; Dr. Rachel Levine, formerly Pennsylvania Health Secretary, is now a four-star admiral running the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps; and a look forward to Thursday’s Bethlehem mayoral debate. It will be broadcast live at 7 p.m. on WLVR and PBS39. For more of “what you need to know,” sign up for our weekly newsletter at WLVR.org.

Brad Klein

Listen to the story.

“I’m joined this week by WLVR’s Tyler Pratt. Hi Tyler.”

Tyler Pratt

“Hi, Brad.” 

Klein

“You’ve been monitoring a local angle of an evolving national story, which is the big story of employers struggling to fill job openings. It’s particularly urgent in health care and relevant to the Lehigh Valley.” 

Pratt

“That’s right. The Valley has a nursing shortage. Lehigh Valley Health Network and St.  Luke’s University Health Network have been offering bonuses to new nurses and specialty positions up to $20,000. Now, nursing advocates say that these bonuses and the shortages aren’t necessarily new. It’s just that the pandemic has made the job more strenuous and more difficult at times. They’re actually calling on the State House to pass some legislation that would limit the number of patients that nurses have to take care of.” 

Klein

“Wow. So it’s not just an issue of money, it’s also an issue of the quality of patient care , but also the stresses that are on nurses in these times of pandemic.” 

Pratt

“We’re hearing that burnout is very real amid the pandemic and perhaps lessening the number of patients that a nurse might have to take care of in certain situations could advance patient care and make things a little easier on the nurse. However, it does raise some questions about rationing patient care.” 

Klein

“So let me ask you a question about vaccine mandates at Lehigh Valley health care facilities. Is that playing a role in this issue?” 

Pratt

“Well, just at the end of last month, St. Luke’s said that 150 plus workers quit after their mandate went into place. Now, they’re not saying how many nurses that included. But the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association said that most nurses are actually vaccinated and they think that many of the people who quit were in other roles in these hospitals. 

“But the state nurses association also says that it supports nurses getting vaccinated but not the mandates. It’s a bit of a polarizing issue. They really think that the mandates create an uncomfortable position for nurses to be in. Now, LVHN has a mandate coming up in a few weeks and said it expects very few resignations. So time will tell how the workload plus mandates impact Lehigh Valley patient care.”

Klein

“Another local story that has become a national story: Dr. Rachel Levine, who was Pennsylvania’s health secretary, went to work for the Biden administration and now she’s become a 4-star admiral. I did not see that coming.” 

Pratt

“Dr. Rachel Levine really led Pennsylvania through the pandemic as far as its health response, giving daily updates on COVID-19 numbers and reminding residents to wear masks. And she was confirmed by the Senate this week to lead the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and she is the first openly transgender 4-star officer in the nation’s eight uniformed services.” 

Klein

“Now, I had to ask myself what are the eight uniformed services? Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, that was easy. I had to think of Space Force and Coast Guard. Then there are two non-military services: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, which was really under my radar.” 

Pratt

“It’s actually a 6,000-person force that responds to health crises on behalf of the federal government and this includes administering coronavirus vaccines and delivering care after hurricanes.” 

Klein

“Now, looking forward to the election, we do have a Bethlehem mayoral debate coming up at 7 p.m. Thursday and it will be broadcast live on WLVR and on our sister TV station PBS39.” 

Pratt

“News Director Jen Rehill and Lehigh Valley Live Reporter Sara Satullo will co-moderate. It will feature Democrat William Reynolds, he’s a teacher and has been on city council since 2008 and he’s heavily favored to win.”

Klein

“And he’s favored because Bethlehem has more registered Democrats than Republicans, am I right?” 

Pratt

“That’s correct.” 

Klein

“On the Republican side, we have John Kachmar.” 

Pratt

“Kachmar is a former Lehigh County administrator and he’s never run for office before. If he won, he’d be the first Republican mayor in nearly three decades. And sources on the ground suspect this may be a lively debate, so be sure to tune in Thursday at 7 p.m. on PBS39 and WLVR.” 

Klein

“Thanks so much for joining us, Tyler.”

Pratt

“Thank you, Brad.” 

Klein

“Tyler Pratt covers criminal justice issues and hosts ‘All Things Considered’ here on WLVR. If you’re looking for reliable information concerning this and future elections, visit Vote.Pa.gov. For more of ‘What You Need to Know,’ sign up for our weekly newsletter at WLVR.org.

Sign up for our WLVR weekly newsletter to stay up to date with the latest news from the Lehigh Valley and across Pennsylvania. 


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