By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – Health care workers and hospital staff could soon receive up to $2,000 in retention stipends under a new proposal within Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revised state budget aimed at addressing staffing shortages at California hospitals.
The revised $300.6 billion state budget, which Gov. Newsom presented in Sacramento on Friday, proposes $933 million in one-time funds to provide retention payments for health care workers in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. Workers could receive up to $2,000 from the proposal – the state would provide a $1,000 baseline payment and an additional $500 if employers pay $500 to workers.
About 600,000 workers could receive payments. The baseline payment is the same for all hospital and nursing facility workers, whether they are janitorial workers or doctors, the Department of Finance told The Center Square in an email.
“I’m very mindful of the stress and the burden…that’s been placed on our health care workforce, particularly nursing home staff and hospital staff,” Gov. Newsom said Friday. “We’re looking to provide stipends because we’re losing staff.”
The proposal comes as hospitals across the state and country face shortages as the pandemic continues. During the week ending March 20, 2022, 28% of nursing facilities across the country reported at least one staffing shortage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The report found California had one of the lowest share of nursing facilities reporting staff shortages in March, with just 4% reporting shortages. Other reports indicate that California could experience sustained shortages of registered nurses for the next five years.
A September report from the University of California San Francisco found that, based on preliminary data from a 2020 Survey of Registered Nurses, the state faced a shortage of more than 40,500 full-time equivalent registered nurses in 2021, a 13.6% gap. The report estimates the shortage will last until 2026, as many older nurses retired during the pandemic or plan to retire soon and unemployment among younger RNs has increased.
In response to these shortages, hospitals have responded with increased hourly wages and retention and recruitment bonuses. Still, the number of health care workers nationwide dropped 20% in the last two years as employees left the field for other jobs or retired early, Jan Emerson-Shea, vice president of external affairs for the California Hospital Association, told The Center Square in an email.
“While the ranks of health care workers are starting to refill, the gap between the health care needs of Californians and the professionals available to provide that care remains enormous,” Ms. Emerson-Shea said.
Gov. Newsom’s proposal received praise from California Medical Association President Dr. Robert E. Wailes, who said it “recognizes the sacrifices our health care workforce has made over the course of the pandemic.”
Other health officials urged the governor and Legislature to do more to address inflation relief for California hospitals, which is not currently included in the proposed budget.
Carmela Coyle, president & CEO of the California Hospital Association, said hospitals need “relief from increasingly costly and impossible-to-meet seismic building requirements” and increased Medi-Cal reimbursements for facilities serving the state’s “most vulnerable patients and communities.”
“As the Legislature finalizes its budget plan over the next month, CHA urges lawmakers to recognize and address the unprecedented financial challenges facing California’s hospitals,” Ms. Coyle said in a statement.
Gov. Newsom and the Legislature must agree on a budget framework by mid-June, as the new fiscal year begins July 1.