Health care leaders support state workforce initiatives to address staffing crisis

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Health care leaders support state workforce initiatives to address staffing crisis

Thu, 10/21/2021 - 5:14pm -- tim

Administration Report Calls for Increased Investments in Traditional Programs and Creates Workgroup to Explore New Initiatives Such as Affordable Housing and Tax Incentives

Vermont Business Magazine A coalition of Vermont associations representing home health and hospice, physicians and other clinicians, dentists, mental health providers, long term care facilities, adult day centers, and hospitals expressed support for the Scott Administration’s proposals to strengthen Vermont’s vital health care workforce and help address our state’s workforce shortage. The Agency of Human Services presented its Health Care Workforce Development Strategic Plan to the Green Mountain Care Board on Wednesday recommending new investments and increased supports that are critical to the state’s health care system.

“On behalf of our organizations, we want to thank the Administration and lawmakers for their work to address this crisis,” said Jill Mazza Olson from the VNAs of Vermont. “We need immediate and comprehensive action to ensure that enough providers are available to give Vermonters the right care in the right place at the right time. We must attract new health care workers and retain the workers we have. This is incredibly hard work, made even more difficult during the pandemic.”

“This is a national problem,” noted Laura Pelosi from the Vermont Health Care Association, “Vermont will need to take bold action now to compete with other states.”

Although Vermont has had tremendous success with its vaccination rate and other measures against COVID-19, it is not immune to the current workforce crisis, which involves much more than the number of COVID cases. Vermont’s workforce entered the pandemic needing at least 5,000 nurses by 2020. 

COVID-19 increased the stresses facing our health care workforce. In addition to risking their own health, many health care workers have been taking on longer hours and additional duties due to workforce shortages and colleagues who are ill or in quarantine. Health care exposes its workers to unusual types of stress, including moral distress if they feel constrained in delivering the best possible care. These conditions contribute to a vicious circle where understaffing leads to increased burnout and an even weaker health care workforce.

Jessa Barnard from the Vermont Medical Society said, “We express our deep gratitude to all of those providing care in the face of adversity.  We thank you for your dedication and work on behalf of all Vermonters.”

In addition to traditional programs and benefits such as loan forgiveness and scholarships for health care professions, the report also establishes a workgroup to pursue more innovative approaches to attracting health care workers, including child care, housing supports and tax incentives. Vermont’s high cost of living and lack of affordable housing and access to child care are commonly cited as significant barriers for workers.

“Vermont’s health care associations are united on the issue of workforce because it affects every aspect of care for Vermonters across the state and across providers, indeed, we are all connected,” said Devon Green from the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems. “When we do not have caregivers for long term care facilities, patients stay in the hospital. In turn, that bed is not available to the person needing trauma services. When a person cannot find a primary care provider or dentist, they end up in the emergency department causing further strain. Home health care prevents many emergency room visits and hospitalizations, but only when home health agencies have enough staff to provide those services.”

Julie Tessler from Vermont Care Partners added, “There are individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities who have lost their homes because of a shortage of residential providers and hundreds of children are waiting for outpatient mental health care, leading some to require inpatient psychiatric care. We need to be there when Vermonters need care, especially life-saving care, and to do that, we need a strong workforce.”

To view the full report, visit: https://gmcboard.vermont.gov/sites/gmcb/files/documents/VT%20Health%20Care%20Workforce%20Development%20Strategic%20Plan%2010-15-21%20Final%20GMCB.pdf 

About the Vermont Health Care Coalition

The Vermont Health Care Coalition is an ad hoc group of Vermont’s health care associations. This group has collaborated since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic to address Vermont’s health care needs, tackle our state’s toughest challenges using best practices, data and sound policy. The coalition consists of the following:

  • Jessa Barnard - Vermont Medical Society 
  • Patrick Gallivan - Vermont State Dental Society
  • Devon Green - Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems
  • Mary Kate Mohlman - Bi-State Primary Care Association
  • Jill Mazza Olson - VNAs of Vermont
  • Laura Pelosi - Vermont Health Care Association 
  • Virginia Renfrew - Vermont Association of Area Agencies on Aging VT Association of Adult Day Services
  • Susan Ridzon - HealthFirst Independent Practice Association 
  • Julie Tessler - Vermont Care Partners: VT Council
  • Jason Williams - University of Vermont Health Network
  • Stephanie Winters - Vermont Academy of Family Physicians and American Academy of Pediatrics – Vermont Chapter

Source: Montpelier, VT - Vermont Health Care Coalition 10.21.2021