NEW HAMPSHIRE’S economy is booming, with increasing revenue and close-to-full employment. This is clearly good news, but it can also pose a significant challenge for employers that need to hire workers. This challenge is felt overwhelmingly in one of New Hampshire’s largest and most important sectors — health care.
New Hampshire’s hospitals provide lifesaving care to hundreds of your neighbors a day, including by functioning as New Hampshire’s new “hubs” for substance misuse treatment. Community health centers give our most vulnerable residents, including young children, access to critical medical care. Community mental health centers see thousands of patients every year, and are particularly necessary during our state’s mental health crisis. With our aging population, nursing homes are accepting the responsibility of caring for thousands of older adults.
None of these organizations can function effectively without qualified medical professionals to staff them.
There are currently hundreds of vacant clinical positions in medical centers across our state. Nursing homes are closing needed beds because of lack of staff. It is not hard to envision a community without access to these medical facilities if we do not find ways to grow the health-care workforce.
How can we keep our communities healthy without health-care workers?
The good news is that, as we move forward, there are opportunities to support and grow our health-care workforce.
Increasing the rates for Medicaid providers and decreasing administrative costs will also play a part in uplifting providers in their quest for talent. Both low Medicaid reimbursement rates and high administrative costs pose threats to health-care providers in their attempts to provide preventative and lifesaving health services.
Investing in the State Loan Repayment program, an existing program that offers student loan repayment for workers who agree to work in under-served areas for a certain time, can seriously benefit health-care providers in recruiting and retaining qualified staff. The program is successful, but extremely limited in size and in the areas of the state where it is available.
Recruiting new talent is an obvious way to fill the hundreds of vacant positions that are preventing Granite Staters from getting appropriate health care. We need to create strong residency programs and a pipeline for new professionals to meet the increasing demands of the workforce. Young people entering the workforce today are doing so in a drastically different working world than in the past. Employers need support in attracting these young people to health-care jobs and training them to work in this fast-paced industry effectively.
There is even more that we can do, like expanding options for tele-medicine opportunities, simplifying the overly-exhaustive background-check process for new employees, and reducing the number of Medicaid beneficiaries on which providers need to “spend down.”
As a package, these solutions will drastically improve the ability of health-care providers to recruit and retain workers, in turn keeping our children, friends, neighbors, and community members healthy.
Our state lawmakers have a responsibility to support policy that will promote the health of New Hampshire residents and help our state thrive economically. Health-care workforce development is one crucial way to do just that.