Health care workforce in New York State at ‘crisis’ level

Staffing Shortage

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – What can the state do to help our hospitals and nursing homes that are understaffed and scrambling to care for patients? That was the topic of a public hearing that was held on Tuesday by the NYS Assembly Health Committee. 

During the pandemic, many people called them heroes but it’s now a different story for healthcare workers. “People have short memories and now what they hear is people being burned out in these jobs, they can’t take them, there’s a lot of demands on the job,” Tim Johnson, the Vice President of the Greater NY Hospital Association told the committee. 

It’s hasn’t helped with recruitment, especially in Upstate New York committees. “There are not a sufficient number of people who reside in that area so, the recruitment actually means recruiting someone and their family from a different area to move to that area to live and work and so, I think that’s part of the difficulty,” explained Bea Grause, the President of the Healthcare Association of New York State.

So, what are some of the solutions? Amy Lee Pacholk is a registered nurse and a member of the Public Employees Federation (PEF). “We need to invest more in front loaded loan forgiveness programs that reward individuals for taking on this work and to help them earn the education they need to do it successfully,” she suggested. “We also need to fortify and invest in our SUNY teaching hospitals and expand healthcare course offerings.”

Local Assemblyman Josh Jensen is the Ranking Member of the Committee and was in NYC for the hearing. “One of the ideas that’s been brought up today, has been an interstate nursing licensure compact which would allow nurses and care professionals from other states who have licenses and meet certain criteria to be able to practice in NYS,” he tells News10NBC. 

While New York State implemented a safe staffing law in January that mandates nursing homes and hospitals meet certain staff to patient ratios, a number of unions that represent healthcare workers have filed thousands of complaints alleging employers are violating that law. 

It’s no surprise to Assemblyman Jensen. “I think safe staffing is something everybody is supportive of but the safe staffing law was something I had concerns about when it was originally passed as somebody who worked in a nursing home and saw it first hand. The struggle that nursing homes have in getting staff,” he says.

The testimony given at Tuesday’s hearing will likely be used to shape policy as the legislature heads back to Albany for a new session in January.