Report: Minnesota healthcare workers leaving at 'crisis rates'

Report: Minnesota healthcare workers leaving at ‘crisis rates’

In 2022, nursing homes in Minnesota reported worse staffing shortages than anywhere else in the country. The ability to find direct caregivers for these and other facilities has become a crisis. That’s according to a new report from the University of Minnesota.

“The crisis of low-wage healthcare workers is a crisis for everyone in need of care,” the report’s authors wrote.

Although direct care work can be incredibly dangerous, it is not well paid. According to the report, more than 40% of direct care workers in Minnesota earn less than 200% of the federal poverty level and nearly half use Medicaid or Medicare for insurance.

It’s for front-line work that involved exposure to COVID-19 before vaccines were developed, and produces higher injury rates than those suffered by firefighters.

“Workers suffered a lot of casualties in the early months of the pandemic, when 15% of those hospitalized were getting COVID before the vaccines,” said Jamie Gulley, president of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.

However, now that vaccines are available and the pandemic is waning, health care work in Minnesota has become much more difficult due to understaffing.

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“While the pandemic was tough in its own way, most of our respondents were saying that the job actually got a lot tougher as we recovered from the pandemic due to labor shortages,” said the author of the report, Jeanette Dill.

Those providing direct care in Minnesota are overwhelmingly women — 85% — and 36% are people of color. According to Dill, it’s a legacy that stems from America’s history of slavery and domestic labor.

“We used to depend on black women in particular and other women of color, including immigrant women, to provide this kind of domestic care and domestic services. It’s part of our historic legacy here in the United States… women of color have had less access to educational opportunities and are therefore more confined to these low-wage care jobs,” Dill said.

To address critical and growing shortages, the report recommends a redistribution of Medicaid and Medicare spending. According to the report, current Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement policies and practices “often promote dramatic wage inequality within and across health professions,” and favor services focused on male-dominated work involving surgery and technology. .

Other recommendations include support for organizing workers. Nearly half of Minnesota’s home care workers are unionized, along with 32% of nursing home workers.

“The effect of low wages has a huge cost to the system,” Gulley said. “The first thing we need to see is higher pay. Yes, unionized workers earn a bit more than non-unionized workers, as you would expect. But we also stay longer. There is a lot more retention, you see a lot more continuity of care.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Minnesota have voiced support for resolving Minnesota’s direct care issues.

” It’s a big problem. It’s gone from kind of a challenge to a problem, to a big problem to a crisis to I don’t know what the next level is, but the system is about to collapse,” Sen. Jim said. Abeler (R-Anoka) .

Sen. John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin), who sits on the Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee with Abeler, agrees and hopes to help introduce a bill addressing direct care issues during the next session.

“People who need (those) services, they die, they fill our hospitals,” Hoffman said. “Caregiving is a system. As Jim says, the infrastructure is collapsing. 53,000 vacancies and no one is having a serious conversation about paying people what they should be paid.

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