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The local health care industry is dealing with a staffing shortage


A staffing shortage existed in Hawaiʻi’s health care industry before Covid, and it will still be there after the pandemic passes.

Just prior to the pandemic, research by the Healthcare Association of Hawaiʻi found the state had about 3,000 licensed hospital beds but only enough workers to staff 2,000 of them.

Hilton Raethel, president and CEO of that organization, was one of the industry leaders PBN met with for a roundtable about the future of the health care industry.

Raethel says the shortage wasn’t only in doctors and nurses, but other technical fields as well. The association intends to repeat its workforce survey, seeking even more data this time, to assess the state of health care in the wake of the pandemic. Those findings will be available next summer.

What to do about the situation?

For Jill Hoggard Green, president and CEO of The Queen’s Health Systems, one answer is better relations between the industry and K-12 education, so kids are aware of the wide range of fields open to them in health care and how they can prepare themselves for those jobs.

At Hawaiʻi Pacific Health, workforce development starts from within. That system, which includes Kapiʻolani, Pali Momi, Straub and Wilcox hospitals, has a Bridge to Leadership program. This is a partnership with the University of Hawaiʻi John A. Burns School of Medicine and the state Department of Education, providing opportunities for current staff to become leaders in nursing or become physicians.

These health care executives are also thinking about the demand for health care, as well as the supply. And they’re looking beyond their hospital walls at the ways in which Hawaiʻi could do better preventive care and health maintenance.

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
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