Access to Care Issues

Information on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on access to health care services, including workforce shortages and surge capacity issues.

(05/21/21) Pandemic Has Made Shortage of Health Care Workers Even Worse, Say Experts
An article from ABC News looking at the current COVID-19 pandemic-related shortages in the health workforce, exacerbated by individuals leaving the workforce through retirement or seeking better job opportunities. High turnover due to low pay in nursing and long-term care as well as pandemic-related burnout and fatigue continue to disrupt the health workforce supply.

(05/21/21) The Health Care Worker Squeeze
This article from Axios looks at the issue of health care workforce shortages, an issue that preceded the COVID-19 pandemic and has been exacerbated by it, according to the Michael Dill, the director of workforce studies at the Association of American Medical Colleges.

(05/11/21) Riding Herd on Mental Health in Colorado Ranching Country
Access to mental health services continues to be a major challenge in rural communities, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic’s shuttering of many gathering places in these communities. While local public health departments identify the issues with mental health for these communities, there is a shortage of health care providers, requiring primary care providers and other health professionals to take on extra roles.

(05/04/21) MNA Nurses and Healthcare Professionals to Unveil Results of ‘State of Nursing in Massachusetts’
The Massachusetts Nurses Association will hold a press conference on May 6th, marking the beginning of National Nurses Week. The conference will focus on the results of a randomized survey of more than 500 Registered Nurses in Massachusetts that practice various health care settings. The survey entitled “The State of Nursing in Massachusetts,” was conducted March 25 – March 30 by Boston-based Beacon Research and has revealed the concerning impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Registered Nurses and the health care system in Massachusetts.

(04/30/21) Access to Mental Health Services Dwindled As Pandemic Need Strained Providers: GAO Report
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the access to mental health care services has been severely impacted as the COVID-19 pandemic increased demand for services. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 27% more people reported symptoms of anxiety and depression between April 2020 and February 2021, compared to 2019. Additionally, emergency room departments have seen a significant increase in visits for overdoses and suicide attempts. The National Council for Behavioral Health has found that approximately two-thirds of their member organizations reported a need to cancel, reschedule, or turn patients away due to an insufficient supply of providers as the demand for services surge.

(04/28/21) Health Care Providers Discuss COVID-19 Impact on ICU as 4th Surge Hits Oregon
Oregon State is challenged with a fourth surge of COVID-19 cases and is passing the proposed statewide hospitalization threshold of 300 people. Health care providers are urging the population to get vaccinated in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus and preserve hospital capacity.

(04/28/21) CMS Proposes $2.5B IPPS Rate Hike, With Eye on Rural, Health Equity
In response to pandemic-exacerbated issues with the rural health workforce, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is seeking to increase Medicare inpatient rates for hospitals based on the Inpatient Prospective Payment System, as well as adding residency slots to qualifying hospitals. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant financial hardship for nearly half of all rural hospitals, with hundreds at risk of closure.

(04/21/21) Oregon Hospital Rolls Out Emergency Plan With More Than 500 Workers on Leave in April
This article from Becker’s Hospital Review highlights the staffing concerns of Oregon State Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 500 health care workers have used sick, vacation, or other leave related to COVID-19 this month as of April 18, 2021. This accounts for 23% of the hospital’s total workforce. Employees have continuously expressed their concerns as working conditions have become dangerous. Employees are facing exhaustion and are continuously mandated to work long hours due to staffing shortages. Hospital officials are partnering with staff to employ emergency staffing solutions which includes requests for the deployment of health care workers from the National Guard.

(04/21/21) To Relieve Healthcare Workers Shortage, Congress Considers Recapturing Unused Visas
This article from The National Law Review highlights a bill recently reintroduced to the US Senate, the Health Workforce Resilience Act. This act seeks to recapture unused visas and remove caps based on country, for these visas among other efforts, in order to incentivize foreign-trained health care workers to practice in the US in areas experiencing shortages.

(04/09/21) In Rural Areas With Health Care Shortages, These Doctors Are Answering the Call
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing health disparities and health professional shortages in rural communities. The National Health Service Corps has assisted with increasing the workforce by deploying providers to health facilities in health professional shortage areas in exchange for education or loan repayment.

(04/09/21) Foreign-trained Doctors Like Me Fought COVID-19. Now We’re Being Tossed Aside
This opinion piece published in STAT offers perspective on foreign-trained physicians who were granted temporary licensure under executive orders during COVID-19, only to lose these licenses when executive orders expire. The high costs associated with attaining an equivalent level of licensure in the United States compared to their country of education make it difficult to practice at the highest level of training.

(04/08/21) A Coming Surge in Oral Health Treatment Needs
A recent survey conducted by CareQuest Institute for Oral Health has found an expectation for a spike in need for oral health care following the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the ability for many patients to seek and receive oral health care, with lack of dental benefits from job loss, delays relating to the cost of seeking care, and fears of COVID-19 exposure at oral health clinics contributing.

(04/05/21) Minnesota COVID-19 Hospitalizations Have Nearly Doubled Since Late February
Minnesota state health officials have released hospital capacity data which indicate that Minnesota hospitals are caring for nearly twice as many COVID-19 patients than they did in late February. These hospitals are seeing a rise in the number of younger adults being admitted to ICUs, as 82.5% of the state’s elderly population have received the COVID-19 vaccination.

(03/30/21) Rethinking ICU Allocation in Times of Crisis
This blog post from Health Affairs highlights the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on intensive care units across the United States, arguing that self-regulation by health care systems for allocation of intensive care unit resources leads to issues with access, equity, and value, while adding suggestions for improving cooperation and utilization of resources in systems across a region or state.

Primary Care & COVID-19:
(03/29/21) Round 27 Survey
(02/23/21) Round 26 Survey

A frequent primary care survey about COVID-19 from the Primary Care Collaborative and the Larry A. Green Center. The goal of this project is to assess primary care’s ability to evaluate and manage patients during the COVID-19 pandemic and to consider policy implications going forward.

(03/18/21) Lessons From the COVID-19 Crisis: Overcrowding Hospitals Cost Lives
A recent study that was published on the JAMA Network and conducted by researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs found that the mortality rate of patients admitted to the ICU increased as ICU demand increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Another study conducted by researchers in the U.K. found similar findings during both the first wave of COVID-19 patients and the fall surge of patients. Both studies are unsure of additional factors that may have caused the increased mortality rate, but the studies illustrate the consequences of hospitals operating at maximum capacity.

(03/12/21) A Year in Review: America’s Fight Against COVID-19
The Alliance for Health Policy held a webinar on March 12, 2021 offering a review of the actions taken in the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic, including how health care has changed in the United States and the status of public health today and into the future.

(03/08/21) Keep Rural Pennsylvania Healthy by Ensuring Hospitals Have Needed Nurses
Pennsylvania is suffering from a severe health workforce shortage as cases surge in rural areas. Rural hospitals and health clinics are facing several challenges that disproportionately affect access to quality health care for rural patients. The proposed solution to expanding the workforce, particularly for nurses, is to expand access to education and to strengthen recruitment and retention strategies.

(03/07/21) Amid COVID Health Worker Shortage, Foreign-Trained Professionals Sit on Sidelines
Licensing and credentialing barriers in several states are preventing foreign-trained health care providers to contribute to workforce surge capacity during the pandemic. The Migration Policy Institute think tank in Washington, D.C. reported that approximately 165,000 foreign-trained immigrants in the U.S. hold degrees in health-related fields but are unemployed or underemployed.

(03/07/21) Industry Lobbying Left Nursing Homes Vulnerable in Pandemic
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, several nursing homes and long-term care facilities faced critical workforce shortages that affected the quality of care for its residents. The COVID-19 pandemic has elucidated both new and existing workforce concerns for the long-term care industry. As congress pushes for legislation that enforces staffing level mandates, lobbyists believe that staffing mandates may make matters worse.

(03/05/21) ICU Physician Shortage Will Push Hundreds of US Counties into Crisis, Analysts Predict
This article from Becker’s Hospital Review highlights findings from a new COVID-19 Workforce Estimator analysis. The analysis was conducted by The Fitzhugh Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., in collaboration with Premier, and the National Association of County and City Health Officials. The analysis finds that hundreds of U.S. counties will experience ICU shortages of critical care physician specialists.

(03/04/21) COVID-19 County Workforce Deficit Estimator
A new tool from the Fitzhugh Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity at the George Washington University and partners seeks to highlight hospital workforce strain at the county level throughout the United States.

(03/01/21) The Long Tail of COVID-19: Is US Health Care Ready for the Mental Health Crisis That Will Follow?
This article from Worth features perspectives of more than a dozen leaders in various parts of the health care sector on their thoughts about the preparedness of the United States health care system for the COVID-19 pandemic’s lingering mental health issues. The expected surge will likely be seen by the communities hit hardest by COVID-19, who may also lack access to innovative tools to help treat the long-term effects.

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