Today almost every industry is facing a workforce shortage. But unlike restaurants and retail, most healthcare entities need to be staffed 24-7, 365 days a year.
For healthcare frontline workers there has been little to no break for more than 18-months and making matters worse, they are now experiencing a compounded crisis exacerbated by high burnout rates.
These are fields that cannot replace workers at the same pace at which they’re leaving.
Over 21.4 million people call the Sunshine State home, and 4.5 million are over 65. Soon the state will not be able to handle the healthcare needs of our residents.
The ranks of nursing professionals and home care aides for the aging Baby Boomers are dwindling due to stress and burnout, and inadequate numbers of younger individuals seeking to enter the nursing profession are adding to the current crisis.
A new report commissioned by the Florida Hospital Association and the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida reflects a 25% turnover rate for Florida nurses overall with even higher turnover rates of 35% for licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants (CNA).
The shortages situation is not just impacting providers in facilities, it’s impacting the state’s overall ability to deliver healthcare services in Florida. In October, the Home Care Association of America conducted a survey of its 4,000-member agencies confirming this trend. Preliminary results show:
● 66% had 10 to 40 home care aide vacancies;
● 42% are denying 11-20 cases each month; 12% denying 21-40 cases a month due to staff shortages;
● 95% have increased starting wages in the past year; 40% are offering sign-on bonuses; 64% raising wages by $1 or more per hour.
During the Florida Legislature’s final week of interim committee meetings in preparation for the 2022 session, both the House and Senate heard from providers on how the staffing shortages are leading to access to care issues and worsening health outcomes.
The Senate Health Appropriations Committee also discussed chronic Medicaid underfunding for various providers and its compounding impact to staffing vacancies.
While there is no one single legislative fix that can attack this crisis, there are adaptations that policymakers can consider in light of the challenges and impacts the coronavirus pandemic has inflicted on our healthcare workforce.
While increased Medicaid rates in the Governor’s recommended budget would address some immediate needs, fixes to the education and the regulatory framework would ease systematic issues. This could include:
● Continuing and broadening grants to pay for additional training.
● Alternative clinical options during training to open additional training opportunities and locations.
● Allowing and enticing trained medical staff to teach will allow for more people to train simultaneously, growing the workforce.
● Review of current licensure process for individuals and entities to see if requirements meet the current and emerging healthcare practices.
● Raising public awareness and perception of the occupation of professional caregiving.
The Legislature has passed a few measures to help, considering additional measures that could lessen the burden will put Florida’s healthcare workforce on the path to recovery and growth.
Jennifer Ungru served as chief of staff for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) in 2012-15. She now leads the Dean Mead law firm’s Government Relations & Lobbying practice.
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