Beaumont instituted a $15 minimum hourly wage at the end of last year and is offering signing, retention and referral bonuses as a way to combat the problem, Ferrarotti said.
The health system is also increasingly relying on temporary workers from agencies.
Bob Riney, president of hospital operations and COO for Henry Ford Health System, said shortages are not only impacting medical assistants but also in housekeeping, labs, pharmacy and surgery technicians and even registered nurses. Between June 2020 and May 2021, open positions were up 19% at Henry Ford.
"We believe there will be a two or three year period where supply and demand will not be evenly matched for us," Riney said. "There's no question we're facing a challenge. We are looking for individuals that are drawn the mission of health care. The good news is that while the pandemic did increase and accelerate early retirement of individuals that were quite frankly people who were exhausted, but we feel the supply chain will be filled up again because people have realized the importance of health care during the pandemic."
In the meantime, Henry Ford is reevaluating its wages and working to create more flexibility in roles to appease current and potential workers, Riney said.
Henry Ford increased its minimum wage to $15 per hour last October, immediately affecting 3,000 employees.
Mercy Health and Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, which together comprise the Michigan region of Trinity Health, also raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour in 2020.
The health system is also using recruiting firms to find lower-skilled workers anywhere in the U.S., an expenditure Henry Ford typically reserved for finding physicians and nursing specialists.
"We're casting a wider net," Riney said. "There's no reason for roles like these we can't attract individuals from other communities and other states. People look to relocate for a lot of reasons, so we want to find those people. Historically we have reserved that for higher level roles, but we're now expanding that to medical assistants and other classifications."
Shehata agrees this is likely a short-term problem for the industry and other industries. While they are raising rates and paying more in labor today, most health systems will look to streamline operations and invest in technology to reduce those labor costs.
"We're going to see heavy digitization," Shehata said. "The idea that health care has to leverage automation to improve patient experience and improve the workflow is sort of a third rail that's as much about this labor shortage issue."
The Economic Alliance of Michigan, which represents employers, including General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Lear Corp. and others to advocate for higher quality and controlled pricing in health care, is also urging the industry to streamline operations instead of increasing hiring.
"Healthcare costs continue to rise and the industry never sees a contraction," said Bret Jackson, president of the nonprofit whose members provide health insurance to 900,000 Michiganders. "As the rest of the state's industries shrink, health care keeps growing. We just keep pumping money into an inefficient system and more workers won't solve that. Without a new way of doing business, the industry is headed for a bubble and all these workers they are hiring will be laid off."