Hiring was particularly robust in healthcare last month, accounting for some 15% of all jobs filled in June.
It’s just one month so we can’t call it a trend yet, particularly because the Bureau of Labor Statistics revised hiring downward for April and May. But since the industry is still down 176,000 positions from February 2020, any uptick is welcome.
That’s especially true at hospitals, which added 20,500 employees in June—good news for organizations and their patients.
Staffing is just one of many challenges hospitals face more than two years into a public health emergency that on Friday was again extended for another three months. Take a peek behind the curtain of this segment of the massive industry—health spending represents almost 20% of gross domestic product—and you’ll find plenty of other pain points. Fewer inpatient admissions and emergency department visits. Sicker patients who’ve delayed care. Recruitment and retention issues leading to higher wages. Increased supply costs as inflation hits a 40-year high. Rising COVID-19 cases. Worries about telehealth payment policies and the end of federal relief funds.
Each year, Modern Healthcare surveys hospital systems across the nation to gauge the state of their operations and their outlook; the results are contained in this issue (page 26) and available online. One of the organizations we surveyed put it succinctly: “Pivot feels like it’s the word of the last two years.”
A renewed sense of urgency surrounds the issues mentioned above, but as senior reporter Alex Kacik reports in the story accompanying the survey, there’s also some friction. While hospitals are establishing relationships and making investments that will help them in the long run, and in key service lines like behavioral health and care in underserved communities, they face squeezed budgets and plenty of uncertainty. How they handle that pain will depend on COVID-19 trends and their resources, particularly when federal relief dollars dry up.
The federal PHE declaration has provided breathing room for hospitals financially, but it could be a tough slog when it’s over. As several hospital systems pointed out to us, various forms of emergency financial assistance may sunset, but the COVID-19 surges and sicker patients will continue. Unless there are policy changes at the federal level involving reimbursement, the agendas inside hospital boardrooms won’t be about additional services for their communities. The conversations will be about cuts.