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Association Urges Action to Protect Health Care Workforce

In a recent letter, America’s Essential Hospitals urged House and Senate leaders to sustain and strengthen the health care workforce in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Essential hospitals have borne the brunt of pandemic-related hospitalizations over the past 18 months, with a significant impact on staffing. COVID-19 is shrinking the essential hospital workforce and heightening concerns about looming provider shortages in coming years. Safety net providers have incurred considerable costs in hiring and maintaining staff to respond to the continued spread and reverberating effects of the pandemic. This experience has highlighted the need to immediately support existing hospital staffing while concurrently laying the groundwork to build and expand the health care workforce for the future.

In the letter, the association highlighted the challenges member hospitals experience as they work to attract and retain the workforce necessary to fully operate their facilities and care for underrepresented populations. To support essential labor needs in the short- and long-term, the association urged Congress to consider these priorities in future legislation:

  • establish emergency funding for providers to address critical workforce needs during
    public health emergencies.;
  • prioritize immigrant visas for foreign clinicians to relieve staffing shortages during
    public health emergencies, and advance immigrant visa policies to address long-term
    health care workforce needs;
  • increase funding for discretionary health care workforce development programs; and
  • increase graduate medical education (GME) slots.

Policies relating to several of these priorities — such as new programs to enhance and diversify clinician and allied health professional training — were included in reconciliation legislation developed by House committees in concert with Democratic leadership. However, the immediate path forward for these policies remains unclear as Democrats remain at a standstill on the target topline spending number for the overall legislation. Other policies, such as expanding GME, historically have bipartisan support and Congress could continue to increase GME opportunities in future bipartisan legislation, perhaps as part of a year-end package.

Contact Senior Vice President of Policy and Advocacy Beth Feldpush at 202-585-0111 or bfeldpush@essentialhospitals.org with questions.

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About the Author

Nikki Hurt is a manager of legislative affairs at America's Essential Hospitals.

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