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WASHINGTON — As the U.S. health system buckles under the weight of the Covid-19 pandemic, private equity firms are cashing in.

Some of their investments center on nurse staffing agencies, a little-known cluster of companies that send free-floating nurses to help hospitals when they’re short-staffed or otherwise in need of extra assistance. Hospitals have relied on the agencies like never before during the pandemic, as wave after wave of hospitalizations strained nurses, who face a crushing burden of sick patients and the possibility that they will fall ill themselves.


The demand for nurses has made so-called travel nursing a lucrative business — and private equity firms have taken notice. Some firms, like Leonard Green & Partners and Ares Management, have longtime investments, and others want in on the action, too. Since the beginning of 2021, at least eight private equity firms have bought at least seven staffing agencies, according to a STAT analysis.

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