Healthcare workers retention and recruitment: What the legislature funded and didn’t

Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 10:41 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A down-the-line pandemic consequence is staffing shortages in the health care industry. Hospitals thought help was on the way. Instead, state lawmakers put money into the training of new workers.

“I can’t tell you how disappointed I am and how the rest of our healthcare folks in the state of Mississippi at this point that they are as well feels like we got left, you know, holding the bag or forgotten about,” Lee McCall, Neshoba General Hospital CEO.

The legislative session ended without any of the federal relief funds being directed to a frontline retention program as it was proposed that would’ve allowed for premium pay to those workers. Hospitals have done what they could to form their own retention programs but thought the state was going to step in to help, too.

“It will end up costing Neshoba, you know, two years, probably close to $8 million of money that, you know, we’ve had it utilized to keep our staff that’s about 15 to 18%, above our normal annual payroll,” described McCall.

While retention didn’t get funded as expected, recruitment did. Accelerate Mississippi has had healthcare on the radar as a target field.

“Our office, we’ve been working for a year or so to really get a grasp of where the biggest needs are in the state,” explained Garrett McInnis, Accelerate Mississippi Deputy Director for External Affairs. “There’s no doubt that healthcare is a huge area, where we’ve got great opportunities for individuals to get good jobs.”

And some ARPA money was directed to rebuilding the pipeline of new nurses.

“We’ll work with our community college partners,” noted McInnis. “And we’ll say, where do we have capacity constraints? Where do we have programs that are great programs? But we just need more space, or we need more people in those programs. And we’ll work to develop plans and strategies to get more people in those programs.”

And another new program could incentivize them to stay in-state after graduation, a loan forgiveness program if nurses and respiratory therapists stay at least five years after graduation.

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