As demand for a quality, skilled workforce remains high across the country, the Interim Joint Committee on Health, Welfare, and Family Services heard testimony from Kentucky healthcare associations on their continued labor needs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cory Meadows, deputy executive vice president and director of advocacy at the Kentucky Medical Association, presented during the meeting on a number of factors he said were contributing to the workforce shortage, even prior to the pandemic.
“While there are acute, immediate needs that should be addressed in the short-term, this is a long-term problem that requires long-term solutions,” Meadows said.
Lack of graduate medical education funding and residency training slots, increased demand for care, aging and retiring of physicians from the baby boomer generation, rising medical liability insurance premiums, and an unfriendly legal climate in Kentucky were among many factors contributing to the shortage, according to Meadows.
“Tort reform, or the lack thereof here in Kentucky, is a major concern when trying to hire new physicians,” Meadows said. “Physicians want a more level and fair playing field for both sides. Legal cases can drag on for years on end, causing a significant emotional and financial toll on individuals. Without reforms, we face an uphill battle recruiting the number of physicians we need in our state.”
Meadows also said that even before COVID-19, Kentucky ranked 43rd in the U.S. in terms of the number of primary care providers per 100,000 residents, according to a study conducted by the University of Kentucky.
Also presenting to committee members Wednesday was Dr. Kris Williams, chancellor of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), who discussed how the statewide system works to meet the demands of Kentucky’s healthcare industry.
Williams said KCTCS helps companies invest in their workforce by offsetting the cost of training through allocated funds from the General Assembly, offering a number of healthcare-related associate degrees and certificates, and partnering with the Kentucky Chamber Foundation Workforce Center’s Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) program.
“This program pulls together employers to look at specific workforce needs across individual regions of the state and works with educational partners to meet those needs,” Williams said. “Currently, there are eight TPM health collaboratives involving 49 employers across the state, evaluating 61 positions critical to their industry and to their success, with over 12,000 projected openings statewide.”
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