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.

(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.

(05/21/21) 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.

See More Resources