Hospitals plead with Congress to tackle workforce shortages

The American Hospital Association is urging Congress to establish policies to combat workforce shortages facing healthcare facilities.  

In a statement submitted to the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee Feb. 10, the group discussed the extent of workforce shortages, how hospitals and health systems are supporting their employees, and called on lawmakers to put policies in place to address workforce challenges.

"The incredible physical and emotional toll that hospital workers have endured in caring for patients during the pandemic has, among other issues, exacerbated the shortage of hospital workers," the American Hospital Association wrote. "This shortage has become so critical that some states and the federal government have deployed military and National Guard resources to help mitigate staffing challenges at some hospitals."

Amid the labor shortage, workforce costs for hospitals have also significantly increased because of the need to hire temporary contract staff, as well as recruitment and retention costs such as overtime pay, bonuses and other incentives, the association said.

While hospitals and health systems have supported workers through these incentives and other efforts, such as implementing programs that address their well-being, the association argued that more needs to be done.

The group urged Congress to enact policies including lifting the cap on Medicare-funded physician residencies; increasing support for nursing schools and faculty; providing scholarships and loan forgiveness; fast-tracking visas for international healthcare workers; and providing funding to help providers cover increased staffing costs and address workers' mental health needs.

The association also called on Congress to enact the Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, which it said would help reduce and prevent workers' suicides, burnout and behavioral health disorders, among other actions.

To read the full letter, click here

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