Access to Care

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

(10/18/21) Rebuilding the Nation’s Health Care Workforce During and After COVID-19: Lessons From Disaster Management
This perspective piece published by STAT offers an emergency medicine physician’s views on the strain COVID-19 has placed on the health care workforce as well as some solutions to recover and rebuild.

(10/08/21) Webinar on COVID-19’s Impact on Rural Health Workforce is Oct. 14
A new report examines the impact of COVID-19 on the rural health workforce in Illinois and offers recommendations to better utilize the current health workforce. Recommendations include: providing incentives and opportunities to recruit and retain a rural health workforce, building rural community health workforce collaborations between the public health and healthcare to improve service delivery, and utilizing telehealth in rural areas to improve medical and behavioral health specialists.

(09/30/21) Ohio Health Care Workers Warn of ‘Astronomical’ COVID-19 Pediatric Surge
As COVID-19 infections among children continues to remain at elevated levels, a hospital in Ohio is warning that surge capacity is impacting care in children’s hospitals throughout the state and country. Ohio currently has the second highest level of pediatric hospitalizations in the US.

(09/23/21) Nurses Are in Short Supply. Employers Worry Vaccine Mandate Could Make it Worse
This article from NPR highlights a major issue related to staff at health care clinics being let go for refusing to vaccinate against COVID-19: lack of providers for patients. Nursing home staff and rural hospitals are at the lowest rates of vaccination among health care providers, with the federal mandate potentially forcing many of these individuals out of work if they refuse to vaccinate.

(09/21/21) Washington State Seeks 1,200 Health Care Workers for COVID-19 ‘Hospital Crisis’
The governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, has requested help from the federal government to staff hospitals and long-term care facilities amidst recent surges in the delta variant of the coronavirus. Both clinical and non-clinical positions are needed as addressing surge capacity continues to be a challenge for the state.

(09/13/21) COVID-19 County Workforce Deficit Estimator
Weekly updates from a interactive tool developed by the Fitzhugh Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity at the George Washington University tracks hospital workforce strain at county levels throughout the United States.

(09/10/21) ‘World Is on Fire’: Kentucky Health Care Workers Exhausted Amidst Latest COVID-19 Surge
Hospitals in Kentucky are struggling to address surge capacity as Governor Andy Beshear claims the COVID-19-related hospital situation in the state is the worst in a lifetime. New weekly records of cases and high rates of hospitalization for unvaccinated individuals is contributing to burnout and fatigue among health care workers, as well as requiring the Kentucky National Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deploy at hospitals throughout the state.

(09/09/21) Coronavirus Disease 2019 Planning and Response
A new article published in the journal Medical Care describes the development of two tools used for health workforce planning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The George Washington University Fitzhugh Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity developed these tools to help with workforce planning at state hospitals as well as contact tracing at county, state, and national levels.

(08/31/21) Delta Cutting ‘Like a Buzzsaw’ Through Oregon-California Border Counties
Kaiser Health News details the issues with surge capacity occurring among the nine counties on the Oregon-California border, with the major hospitals in the area requesting field hospitals to be established in an effort to stem the tide of COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit beds.

(08/30/21) National Union Blames Hospitals For Staffing Crisis; Hospitals Point to Pandemic Challenges
National Nurses United, the nation’s largest union of registered nurses, has placed blame on hospitals for creating a nurse staffing crisis. The union exclaims that hospitals provide unsafe working conditions and intentionally drive nurses away. However, hospitals believe that the staffing crisis has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

(08/30/21) Texas Hospitals to Get Staffing Boost From 8,100 Contract Workers
As COVID-19 cases continue to surge, Texas hospitals are challenged with surge capacity issues including staffing shortages. In efforts to assist Texas hospitals, the state is being aided more than 8,000 contract workers to help relieve some front-line workers and expand workforce capacity.

(08/27/21) Hospitals Scramble to Hire Workers: Snapshots From 5 States
Hospitals across the nation are facing a severe shortage of health care workers amid the fourth wave of COVID-19 cases. This article from Becker’s Hospital Review highlights five states that are overwhelmed by the staffing crisis and their efforts to hire as many health care workers as possible to alleviate staffing strains.

(08/24/21) How Hospitals in 7 States are Alleviating Staffing Strain
This article from Becker’s Hospital Review discusses some strategies being used by health systems and state governments to deal with short-staffing and improve access to hospitals burdened with surge capacity issues.

(08/24/21) Oregon, Once a Virus Success Story, Struggles with Surge
This article from the Associated Press covers the ways in which new surges of transmission of the coronavirus delta variant has turned what was seen as an initially successful curbing of the pandemic into a difficult time for the state. Low COVID-19 vaccination uptake in some counties and low supply of hospital beds even pre-pandemic are fueling the struggles.

(08/24/21) Arkansas COVID Patients on Ventilators Reaches New Record
Arkansas is reporting record levels of patients on ventilators as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the state. Arkansas has among the lowest levels of vaccination for COVID-19 in the United States, and is struggling to meet surge capacity with COVID-19 patients taking up more than half of all ICU beds and few beds remaining open.

(08/24/21) To Boost Covid-19 Vaccine Uptake, One Health System Hunts For Patients Who Fell Through The Cracks
This article published by STAT describes the efforts by a health system in North Carolina to reach patients for vaccination who were most likely to be missed: those without digital accounts and access to the internet. While traditional strategies use community-level data as a substitute for patient-level data and utilize digital services such as electronic health records and email, these strategies can miss those who have difficulty accessing digital records, such as elderly and poorer individuals.

(08/19/21) Pandemic, Labor Shortages Have Left Long-term Care Facilities Competing for Staff
Nursing home advocates say that the COVID-19 pandemic with a general labor shortage and vaccine mandate is making it more difficult to keep staff. The Biden administration announced that it will require nursing home staff be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition for those facilities to receive federal funding. Advocates say the decision will lead to more staff shortages, as “many providers struggle to recruit and retain caregivers who can often find less demanding jobs in other settings, such as hospitals and industries that can offer better pay.”

(08/17/21) Louisiana Offers Child Care Help for Hospital Workers Amid Staffing Shortages
This article from Becker’s Hospital Review highlights Louisiana State’s response to hospital staffing shortages during the COVID-19 surge. In efforts to support essential hospital personnel, Louisiana public health and education officials have opened a new child care assistance program. The program offers subsidized care for children ages twelve and under for twelve months.

(08/13/21) Florida Hospitals Are “Stacking Patients In Hallways” As The Delta Variant Surges
As the Delta variant surges, 85 percent of inpatient hospital beds are now occupied in Florida, a state where less than half of the population is vaccinated. This article looks more closely at the disturbing recent trends of increasing daily COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths related to the pandemic in Florida.

(08/12/21) Mississippi’s Hospital System Could Collapse Within 10 Days Under COVID’s Strain
As the Delta variant leads to another surge in infected cases, health officials in Mississippi warned that the state’s hospital system could collapse in several days. The University of Mississippi Medical Center system has been preparing to expand its capacity, however, the combination of staff shortages and limited ICU capacity makes it challenging to meet the demands.

(08/12/21) Substance Use Issues Are Worsening Alongside Access to Care
This article from the Kaiser Family Foundation discusses the high prevalence of substance use disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently released data shows a significant increase in substance use issues and drug overdose death rates which are disproportionately affecting communities of color. Although states and the federal government have implemented strategies to expand access to treatment, these high-risk groups are severely challenged by new and existing barriers to accessing mental health and substance use disorder services.

(08/11/21) Vaccinating During Pregnancy Has Become Even More Urgent as ICU Beds Fill Up
Doctors across the nation are extremely concerned with the significant increase in severe COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations among unvaccinated pregnant women. With the delta variant surging, unvaccinated pregnant women are at an increased risk for experiencing complications during pregnancy, being admitted to the intensive care unit, and being intubated. The Center for Disease Control, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine are strongly recommending that pregnant women get vaccinated against COVID-19.

(08/10/21) The State Of Arkansas Has Only 8 Empty ICU Beds, As COVID-19 Cases Resurge
The state of Arkansas is among one of the states that have been severely impacted by the new wave of COVID-19 cases. Arkansas has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country and has recently reported that only 8 unoccupied ICU beds are available statewide.

(08/10/21) Hospitals Face a Shortage of Nurses As COVID Cases Soar
With the surge of the Delta variant and increase in daily COVID cases, hospitals are now experiencing a shortage of nurses and other front-link health workers in virus hot spot areas such as Florida, Oregon, Louisiana and Arkansas. As a result of the huge increases of COVID cases, hospitals are losing health workers to burnout and temporary out-of-state work.

(08/02/21) Florida Hospitals Continue Seeing Surge in COVID-19 Patients
Florida Hospital Association has announced that the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state have reached the highest daily total for two consecutive days. Approximately 96% of hospitalizations were unvaccinated individuals and 50% of the individuals hospitalized were between the ages of 25 and 55.

(08/02/21) Washington Hospitals ‘Quite Full’ Amid New Surge of COVID-19 Cases
The Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA) has recently held a press brief to discuss the recent COVID-19 surge and its profound impact on the health care delivery system in the state. WSHA is strongly advocating for hospitals and health care providers to implement COVID-19 vaccination mandates for their staff as hospitals reach capacity thresholds.

(07/30/21) Primary Care Stepping Up Involvement in COVID Vaccination Effort, but Future of Primary Care Is Uncertain
This article highlights new data released by the Larry A. Green Center in collaboration with the Primary Care Collaborative, and 3rd Conversation. The data suggests that primary care is playing a larger role in COVID-19 vaccination efforts as the nation faces its latest surge in COVID-19 cases.

Primary Care & COVID-19:
(07/27/21) Round 29 Survey
(04/21/21) Round 28 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.

(07/06/21) COVID-19, Masks, and Hearing Difficulty: Perspectives of Healthcare Providers
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society assessed the perspectives of healthcare providers on mask wearing and communication challenges among adult patients with hearing difficulties. The researchers conducted a national survey containing 37 questions which focused on hearing loss awareness, patient communication challenges, and tools used by providers to improve communication. The findings suggest that COVID-19 safety measures have significantly increased the awareness of communication challenges related to hearing difficulties and have adversely impacted the quality of care received for hearing impaired patients.

(07/02/21) The Health Care Workforce is Understaffed for Life After COVID-19
This opinion piece from STAT News discusses the profound impact the COVID-19 pandemic has made on the health care workforce. As the nation slowly approaches a sense of normalcy, an anticipated spike in the demand for health care workers is magnifying the worsening health workforce shortages that negatively affect the health care system. Reaching pre-pandemic levels of the supply in health care workers may need to begin with improving the educational pipeline and investing in a higher paying labor market.

(06/28/21) COVID’s Lingering Effects Can Put the Brakes on Elective Surgeries
Due to the unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, medical experts are not sure when it might be safe to have elective surgery for patients who contract the disease. Even though guidelines are being developed for surgery, it is still difficult to determine a proper time frame for elective surgery for many COVID-positive patients.

(06/17/21) We Already Needed More Doctors. Then COVID-19 Hit
This opinion article addresses the worsening doctor shortages in the US during the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent workforce report from the Association of American Medical Colleges estimated a shortage of 17,800 ~ 48,000 primary care physicians and 21,000 ~ 77,100 specialty physicians. The pandemic has also disproportionately imposed burdens on women physicians, physicians of color, and small, rural hospitals.

(06/15/21) AMA Adopts Policies to Advance Telehealth, Close Digital Divide and Tackle Prior Authorization Burdens
The American Medical Association has approved new policies to help advance telehealth, rural health, and COVID-19-related difficulties experienced throughout the pandemic. Some of these changes include new methods for reimbursing for health care delivery both in-person and digitally and advising the federal government on equitable distribution of resources, such as personal protective equipment.

(05/26/21) Shuttered Hospitals, Soaring COVID-19 Deaths: Rural Black Communities Lose a Lifeline in the Century’s Worst Health Crisis
Several hospital closures are forced due to a lack of staff, resources, and high financial risks. This article from STAT news highlights the impact of hospital closures in rural and low-income communities that disproportionately affect the African American population amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

(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.

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