New study shows health staffing shortages in western NY are at crisis level

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The ability to attract and retain staff is an issue that threatens the entire health care system in our region, according to a new study released by Common Ground Health. It’s an issue News10NBC has been investigating both before, during and after the pandemic.

The staffing situation is impacting how long you wait for an appointment, when and where you can get care, and even how quickly an ambulance can get to you in an emergency. It was bad before the pandemic and since then, things have only gotten worse.

“We are now at a point where these workforce challenges are absolutely impacting all of us as individual patients,” says Wade Norwood, the CEO of Common Ground Health.

Common Ground Health surveyed health care employers across 27 counties and found they are all desperate for workers. “I’m a taxpayer, I’m very concerned about making sure that my tax burden is affordable but if there’s any place where we can invest that generates a return and that actually contributes to the quality of life we enjoy as a community, it is in how we care for older adults and how we support the long-term care workforce,” Norwood tells News10NBC.

The study shows there are almost 4,000 openings and a 71 percent turnover rate for home health aides and personal care aides. “Those positions that are the most demanding are often the least well compensated and they are positions that really require a higher level of training,” Norwood says.

Governor Kathy Hochul and the State Legislature approved money in this year’s state budget to provide a $2 per hour pay increase for home health aides starting in Oct. “That’s a great start but now what we need to do is really think about the system dynamics and what are the investments and or the improvements that we can make,” Norwood says.

The improvements needed may not be just about the job itself. Many health care workers are women, and mothers who may want to return to the workforce but need to find childcare to do it. As News10NBC has been reporting, that’s no small task. There is a shortage of childcare providers and the care that is available is often expensive. “These are so powerfully interconnected that it reminds us that when we’re talking about healthcare workers we’re talking about our neighbors we’re talking about people,” says Norwood.

Read the full report below: