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NYS Assembly committees gathering input on how COVID has affected health care delivery

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NYS Assemblyman Richard Gottfried
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NYS Assemblyman Richard Gottfried

The New York State Assembly Health, Labor, and Higher Education Committees held a public hearing this month on the impact of COVID-19 on health care delivery and the health care workforce.

One after another, medical officials gave testimony about what they say is the need to strengthen New York's health care professional work force.

Jeanne Moore is Director of the Center for Health Workforce studies, a research center based at the University at Albany School of Public Health. Moore says 15% of the U.S. labor force either works in health care or a health care related occupation. She says registered nurses are leaving their jobs due to burnout, and that many New York health care provider recruitment and retention issues are pandemic related.

“Hospitals reported the most difficulty recruiting clinical laboratory technologists and technicians, registered nurses and psychiatrists, citing general workforce shortage as the primary reason," Moore said. "Hospitals reported the most difficulty retaining surgical technicians, registered nurses, respiratory therapists, clinical laboratory technologists, citinge better opportunities as the primary reason. Long term care providers reported the greatest difficulty recruiting licensed practical nurses, RNs, certified nursing assistants, citing general workforce shortage as the primary reason. Long Term Care Providers reported the most difficulty retaining registered nurses, home health aides and licensed practical nurses, citing better opportunities and fear of COVID exposure as the primary reasons. Homecare providers reported the greatest difficulty recruiting home health aides, personal care aides, citing general workforce shortages and fear of COVID exposure as the primary reason. “

Moore notes that job growth in health care has outpaced job growth in all other employment sectors. Moore suggests evaluating current workforce development strategies to better understand what's working.

Rhonda Maneval is Professor Senior Associate Dean, College of Health Professions and the Lienhard School of Nursing at Pace University. She cited a 2020 report issued by the New York State Department of Health, which states that by 2030 there is a projected shortage of more than 39,000 registered nurses in the state.

“The American Association of Colleges of nurses reported that over 80,000 qualified applicants were turned away from member schools in 2019," Maneval said. "I believe schools of nursing, both public and private need long term investments if we are to expand enrollments to meet New York State nursing workforce demands.”

Maneval adds the COVID-19 pandemic caused many nursing schools and health professions programs to cancel direct care clinical experience, moving students to virtual learning.

Melissa Wendland is Director of Strategic Initiatives at Common Ground Health in Rochester, a health research and planning organization for the Finger Lakes region.

“We have vacancies in Monroe County for nurses, upwards of 450 nurses, nurses aides pushing 600," said Wendland. "This was just in the month of September. COVID has eliminated and has exacerbated the shortage. The challenge is competition for competent and qualified staff is fierce, and the associate cost to attract and retain staff is unsustainable. In one month, the long term care facilities paid one and a half million dollars in September to cover the cost of incentive pay for nurses and aides”

Legislators plan to continue holding meetings and hearings to address health care workforce challenges brought on by the pandemic.

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