RN vacancies in Wash. pose risk
* The average vacancy rate for registered nurses in Washington state is about 12%, and shortages of nurses and other medical staff are endangering hospital operations and patient care, according to a report by the Washington State Hospital Association and the Association of Washington Public Hospital Districts. Some 55% of the state's hospitals said that staff shortages led them to close their emergency rooms at some point in 2000 and divert ambulances to other hospitals, the report said.
Healthcare shortage a stress
* Rural and inner-city communities alike are increasingly stressed by a shortage of physicians, dentists, nurses and pharmacists, according to a study of the healthcare workforce in 10 states, which was conducted by the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures. "States have not pursued a coherent and comprehensive set of policies aimed at promoting a reasonable health workforce," according to the report. In the U.S. overall, some 17% of the population lives in a "health professional shortage area," the report said. Three of the states studied-Texas, Utah and West Virginia-exceed the U.S. average proportion of people living in primary-care shortage areas.
Direct-care workers' pay lags
* Many workers on the front lines of direct care to the elderly and disabled don't earn "self-sufficient" wages and benefits, a key factor in an epidemic of staffing problems, according to a report released by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The report by the 1.3 million-member union said nurses' aides, orderlies, attendants and other direct-care workers earn an average of $7.97 an hour-far less than the national average hourly salary of car mechanics ($13.62), dog trainers ($11.09) and aerobics instructors ($10.84). The report was prepared by the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute of the South Bronx, New York.