California needs health-care workers, and it’s asking for help – Orange County Register

By Anna Gorman, California Healthline

Health and education leaders across California have joined forces with business and labor leaders to address workforce shortages in health care. The new group aims to create a blueprint for policymakers.

The California Future Health Workforce Commission, unveiled Wednesday, includes two dozen representatives from businesses, organized labor, schools and hospitals. It will meet throughout the year to discuss the state’s current and future health staffing needs and suggest ways to meet them. Its members hope their findings will lead to new policies and greater investment in training health care professionals. They also hope their recommendations will help other states grappling with similar problems.

Ensuring adequate health care staffing is increasingly important because more Californians are insured and schools cannot produce physicians, nurses and other providers fast enough to serve them, said Jeff Oxendine, a dean at the University of California-Berkeley’s School of Public Health and co-director of the commission.

A lack of qualified professionals can also drive health care costs higher by heightening the demand for their services.

The commission plans to focus on three areas: primary care, mental health and the aging population.

“We have a greater demand for health services now,” Oxendine said. “With the aging, increased diversity and the growth of the population, that is only going to put more strain on the system.”

California’s health care staffing shortages are well documented and projected to widen as the population grows and physicians retire. The state will lack about 4,700 primary care doctors by 2025, according to a recent report by the Healthforce Center at University of California-San Francisco. The Central Valley, Central Coast and southern border areas will be hardest hit, according to the report.

To ease the shortage of primary care physicians, for example, medical schools could accelerate training so students could graduate faster. To help seniors age in their communities rather than in nursing homes, the state could ensure that home care workers earn more than the current average of about $11 an hour.

“Those who provide this kind of care are for the most part paid a wage that doesn’t particularly command long-term job loyalty,” said Kevin Barnett, senior investigator at the Public Health Institute and co-director of the commission. “Looking at the demographics, we have to…

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