Despite the use of financial incentives, in-house training programs and high-profile partnerships, many Veterans Affairs medical centers struggle to recruit and retain skilled medical personnel and are often forced to use expensive temp services as a stopgap measure, VA administrators told federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
While not alonecommunity hospitals and other healthcare organizations often find themselves scrambling to hire medical personnelthe VA is nevertheless more vulnerable because federal pay restrictions, location issues and administrative problems can hinder recruitment efforts. The (VA) faces a dangerous shortage of healthcare professionals, said Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. The VA competes with other healthcare systems for employees and too often comes up short.
Federal law restricts how much the VA can pay for certain positions, even though debt-repayment programs, recruitment and relocation bonuses and other measures help defray some of those differences, said Sheila Cullen, director of the San Francisco VA Medical Center. Still, highly specialized positions, such as heart surgeons, radiologists and certified registered nurse anesthetists, often command higher salaries, she said. While we have been successful in developing effective and innovative programs we are continually challenged as a result of the high cost of living and noncompetitive salaries in the Bay Area, she said. -- by Matthew DoBias