Governor’s public health commission discusses Indiana’s health care workforce

IN Focus: Indiana Politics

INDIANAPOLIS – State leaders are looking at ways to improve Indiana’s health care workforce, both in the public and private sectors.

The governor’s public health commission discussed the issue during its second monthly meeting Thursday.

“We are really at a pretty critical situation right now,” said Brian Tabor, president of the Indiana Hospital Association, of the current staffing levels in Indiana’s health care system.

Tabor is also a member of the public health commission and attended Thursday’s meeting.

“We’ve had a lot of retirements,” Tabor said. “And we have an incredible shortage with our nurses … The number of openings that we have for nursing positions is ten times the normal amount.”

Experts from Indiana University addressed the group, noting rural and underserved areas have some of the biggest problems with health care staffing.

Courtney Medlock of the Bowen Center for Health Workforce Research and Policy at the IU School of Medicine noted the data also shows overall shortages in Indiana of primary care physicians, psychiatrists and long-term care workers.

“In many cases, these shortages have become worse during the pandemic,” Medlock said.

Dr. David Welsh, a member of the commission who oversees health departments in two southeast Indiana counties, has dealt with the shortages firsthand.

“We need to reach out to students in high school and college,” said Dr. Welsh, who serves as health officer for Franklin and Ripley counties. “We need to reach out to physicians and see what they can do to help.”

The group discussed some ideas for solutions, including increased investment in local health departments and potentially regionalizing some public health services. Medlock also pointed out some other states offer financial incentives to recruit more health care workers.

Tabor said he remains optimistic state leaders can come together to turn things around.

“To help folks graduate faster, to make it financially available to more Hoosiers to go into a medical profession with tuition reimbursement, it’s going to lift all boats,” Tabor said. “It’s going to help public health. It’s going to help the hospital sector.”

The governor’s public health commission meets monthly. The group is required to issue a report with recommendations on improving Indiana’s public health system by the end of next summer.

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