MHA Report provides insights into vacancy rates and the effects on cost and access for patients
BURLINGTON, MA – October 31, 2022 – The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association (MHA) today released An Acute Crisis: How Workforce Shortages are Affecting Access & Costs. This report highlights the unsustainable pressures facing hospitals in the commonwealth, starting with its most invaluable asset: workforce. New data shows an estimated 19,000 total full-time job vacancies across Massachusetts hospitals, and and the report also outlines vacancy rates for dozens of positions that are essential to patient care.
In addition, the report illustrates how workforce vacancies, capacity constraints, and steep financial losses are intertwining to create an unprecedented crisis for healthcare providers, and how those challenges influence access and costs for patients.
These pressures are having a substantial impact not only on hospital operations, but also on patients’ access to timely care. Fewer workers mean that fewer beds are available to community members, just as care demand increases due to deferred care throughout the pandemic, the ongoing behavioral health crisis, and decreased access to community-based services. And at any given time, more than 1,500 patients are stuck in acute hospital beds as they await placement to a specialized behavioral health bed or post-acute care. All of these factors are leading to what many patients and families may now be experiencing as they navigate their seek healthcare services.
“It is essential that community members and leaders understand the dire set of circumstances that hospitals are now operating under,” said Steve Walsh, president & CEO of MHA. “Our healthcare system has never been more fragile, and its leaders have never been more concerned about what’s to come in months ahead. They are exhausting every option within their control to confront these challenges, but this is an unsustainable reality and providers are in dire need of support. Healthcare organizations, payers, public officials, and community members must come together to find solutions before access to care is jeopardized.”
The report also includes recommendations on steps Massachusetts can take to address the workforce crisis in the short- and long-term. While there are no easy solutions, priorities include the continuation of workforce flexibilities that have helped sustain hospital operations throughout the pandemic, advancing new models of care, taking bold steps to expand the professional pipeline, and investing in new training and educational opportunities for current workers. Recommendations also speak to the need for enhanced supports and protection for healthcare personnel.