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Health care leaders call for help to address 'major crisis' of nursing shortage

'Sometimes getting people to all agree that there is a problem, is the problem,' Mary Mayhew says
Posted at 7:32 PM, Nov 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-01 19:32:40-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Industry leaders said Monday that Florida's medical workforce is facing a "major crisis."

They called for more nurses and support staff to meet demand and are hoping lawmakers will step up in the coming legislative session.

Clinical Operations Director Theresa Gates helps run Beyond Home, a home health service in Jacksonville. She manages nurses and caregivers and said her operation is in "crisis mode."

"We don't have enough staff to take care of the patients that need it," Gates said.

Theresa Gates, Beyond Home Clinical Operations Director
Theresa Gates speaks about the shortage of staff available to take care of patients in need.

Gates has said her company is regularly referring prospective customers to other agencies due to the shortage. Nursing homes and hospitals across the state have also felt the strain. The staff there often work long hours to cover for the gaps.

"We have to have all hands on deck," Gates said. "How do we look at this as a national crisis? Because it is a national crisis."

During the recent press conference in Tallahassee, Gates' concerns were echoed by the medical industry panel.

Hospital and health care association leaders warned the shortage would get worse without help. Pandemic burnout, early retirement, and low wages are fueling the problem, they said.

"Sometimes getting people to all agree that there is a problem, is the problem," said Mary Mayhew, President/CEO of Florida Hospital Association.

Mary Mayhew, President/CEO Florida Hospital Association
Mary Mayhew believes Florida will see a nursing shortfall of about 60,000 by 2035.

Mayhew cited a recent study funded by the association. Researchers found Florida could see a nurse shortfall of near 60,000 by 2035. The CEO hoped next year lawmakers would help the state avoid that.

"We just need to make sure that there's a sense of urgency, as we go into this legislative session, to adopt some strategies that really help to provide some relief in the short-term," Mayhew said.

The wish list of improvements included:

  • Ensuring Medicaid funding meets the cost of care
  • Leveraging state agencies to track and evaluate workforce data
  • Adding more teachers and signup incentives to nurse and CNA education programs.

Though plenty of time remains before the 2022 January session begins, lawmakers have yet to offer anything touching those big goals. Meanwhile, health providers like Gates wait and worry.

"I'm one of those that says, 'Please do something,'" Gates said.