Hospitals Reacting to Nursing Shortage, Survey Finds
While many have predicted that a dearth of health care employees will prevent hospitals from providing care for retiring baby boomers in the near future, an American Hospital Association survey released yesterday revealed that the hospitals have already begun "grappling with severe shortages." The AHA polled 700 hospitals and found that the facilities have 126,000 nursing vacancies and 42,000 open slots for other staff members, such as technicians, radiologists, housekeepers and maintenance workers, CongressDaily reports. In addition, 21% of pharmacist positions remain vacant. AHA President Dick Davidson said, "This shortage isn't just a future problem, it's a here and now problem." Davidson said that hospitals must offer higher pay, flexible scheduling and more opportunities for career advancement to recruit and retain staff, but added that the federal government must "do its share" by providing hospitals with additional funds, especially through Medicare (Rovner, CongressDaily, 6/5). Under the 2000 Benefits Improvement and Protection Act, hospitals are currently receiving payments for inpatient services that are fully adjusted for inflation. However, on October 1, 2001, HCFA by law will only be able to make such payments with the inflation adjustment rate (known as the market basket) less .55%. This rate will hold until October 2003 when hospitals will again receive the full inflation adjustment (HCFA Legislative Summary, March 2001). The AHA has supported plans to provide "full inflation adjustments" for hospitals and establish a "floor" on Medicare's "area wage index." According to Davidson, the proposals would cost $9 billion over the next five years. Carmela Coyle, AHA's senior vice president for policy, said, "This is a significant issue that does require significant investment" (Rovner, CongressDaily, 6/5). To view the AHA survey go to http://www.aha.org/workforce/docs/ahaspecialworkforce.PPT.