Staff shortages could spur next public health crisis, Baystate Health CEO warns

Mark Keroack, MD, president and CEO of Springfield, Mass.-based Baystate Health, is warning that healthcare's workplace shortages present a public health crisis.

Dr. Keroack, who has helmed Baystate since 2014, made the argument in an opinion piece published Feb. 19 on

"There is much being said in the media about the current healthcare workforce shortage, which I believe has the potential to be the next public health crisis," he wrote. 

Dr. Keroack cited a Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association survey that estimated there are 19,000 full-time job vacancies across Massachusetts acute care hospitals. Baystate Health itself has about 1,650 total open positions, more than double the organization's pre-pandemic state.

"The driving forces for this shortage existed before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has only accelerated those conditions," Dr. Keroack wrote. "Baystate Health identified concerns with shortages in key staff categories as early as 2016 and forecasted a worsening as a larger portion of its workforce aged into retirement and patient demand increased due to an aging population in Western Massachusetts."

Those concerns are not specific to Baystate Health. Workforce problems in U.S. hospitals are troublesome enough for the American College of Healthcare Executives to devote a new category to them in its annual survey on hospital CEOs' concerns. In the latest survey, executives identified "workforce challenges" as the No. 1 concern for the second year in a row.

Healthcare executives have responded to these challenges in various ways, including compensation, perks beyond pay, upskilling their workforce and providing more flexibility to staff through initiatives such as virtual nursing programs

Baystate Health has also focused on strengthening pipelines for new trainees and new employees, Dr. Keroack wrote. 

To read his full article, click here

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