Healthcare groups cite workforce ‘crisis’

A broad coalition of healthcare groups on Monday (November 1) tried to draw attention to the personnel and financial issues, saying the state must take action to help cope with what those responsible for the industry describe it as a “crisis”.

“The workforce shortage is the worst it’s ever been,” said Emmett Reed, CEO of the Florida Health Care Association, the state’s largest nursing home group.

A coalition that includes leaders from groups representing nursing homes, hospitals, assisted living facilities and home care providers encountered reporters and detailed issues such as shortages of certified nurses and licensed practical nurses and the lack of nursing professors and student positions in colleges and universities.

They said the COVID-19 pandemic had exacerbated staff problems, causing worker burnout and increasing costs.

“The pandemic has been like a gasoline can on this fire,” said Mary Mayhew, president and CEO of the Florida Hospital Association.

The news event came just over two months before the start of the 2022 legislative session and weeks before Governor Ron DeSantis proposed a budget for the next fiscal year. While each part of the healthcare industry will have different demands and priorities, at least some of the attention will be focused on Medicaid funding.

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee, a panel of House and Senate members who can make mid-year budget decisions, will consider a proposal on Thursday to inject $ 99.5 million in Medicaid money into nursing homes on Thursday. a period of three months. Reed called it a “life jacket to keep us afloat”.

But it was not clear on Monday how much money different parts of the industry will be asking the Legislature for in the 2022 session, which begins in January.

Employers in various sectors of the economy have complained for months that they cannot find enough workers as the pandemic continues. But representatives from health care groups said worker shortages can affect access to care for patients and force providers to seek temporary help from recruiting agencies, increasing spending.

“Right now what we’re doing is we’re all competing for a very small pool and actually a slightly shrinking pool of nurses,” said Justin Senior, CEO of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, which represents public, children’s and university hospitals. . “A lot of retirements have been postponed. We must replace what we have lost and then grow it even more for our growing population. “

The problems go beyond nurses, however, health officials said.

Bobby Lolley, executive director of the Home Care Association of Florida, pointed to a “revolving door” of certified nursing assistants, who provide large amounts of hands-on care. Lolley suggested that the state should consider paying the costs of training certified practical nurses as a way to strengthen the workforce.

Gail Matillo, president and CEO of the Florida Senior Living Association, which represents assisted living, said many staff change employers and leave the area.

“Our staff said that was enough, and they just decided to pull out of the business altogether,” said Matillo.

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