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Hochul announces new spending to boost NY’s health care workforce

Governor Kathy Hochul speaks on February 27th, 2022
Image capture by WAMC
Governor Kathy Hochul speaks on February 27th, 2022

New York Governor Kathy Hochul says she and state health officials are confronting the ongoing outbreaks of two diseases, COVID-19 and monkeypox. The Democrat also says the state is launching two programs to better respond to future health crises.

Hochul is stepping up efforts against monkeypox, with a new supply of vaccines and intensified education efforts. With more than 1,600 cases of the virus, New York has had a quarter of all the cases in the United States. The illness seldom leads to death or hospitalization, but it causes fever and painful lesions that can leave permanent scars.

The governor says an executive order she signed late Friday will allow EMTs, pharmacists and other health care professionals to administer the 110,000 new doses of monkeypox vaccine that New York will be receiving from the federal government over the next several weeks.

“We’re confronting this outbreak with the urgency that it requires,” Hochul said. “Trying to protect the communities and getting the vaccines out there.”

Hochul says the state is also preparing for a potential new wave of COVID-19 cases when the weather cools down in a couple of months and people spend more time indoors. She says officials are stockpiling rapid tests for schools, as well as extra personal protective equipment.

The governor on Wednesday also announced two new programs financed in the state budget as part of a $10 billion effort to boost the state’s health care workforce by 20% over the next five years and address what have become chronic shortages.

“It’s not just a crisis for these workers,” Hochul said. “It’s a crisis for all of us who really do need that health care as well.”

A new scholarship program will help alleviate a shortage of nurses by providing 1,000 new nursing students with free tuition to the state’s and New York City’s public colleges and universities. The state has more than 9,300 openings for registered nurses.

Tanaya England, a social worker at the New York City Administration for Children’s Services and a mother of two, says the program will help her fulfill a longtime aspiration to become a nurse.

“A scholarship won’t just help me pursue a career in nursing and my dreams. It’s also an advancement to support my family,” England said.

The governor also launched a $1.3 billion program to pay recruitment and retention bonuses to all health care workers in the state who earn less than $125,000 a year. The money averages out to around $3,000 per worker.

The plan is backed by the state’s major hospital lobby groups and the health care workers union SEIU 1199. In late July, the union endorsed Hochul in her election bid for a full term as governor.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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