Maine has long experienced an acute shortage of health care workers. The vaccination mandate Governor Janet Mills, (D) has put in place for health care workers is likely to exacerbate an already crisis situation. Nurses are resisting this mandate citing unscientific reasons as justification for their noncompliance.. Until now, no Governor has taken steps to alleviate this long-standing shortage.
The health care sector has been one of the hardest hit during the pandemic representing 12% of the net job losses in Maine according to a press release issued by the Governor’s office yesterday. Will there be more job losses in the coming days?
Today, Governor Mills unveiled steps she is taking to encourage people to pursue careers in health care that will strengthen the workforce. The steps include a three prong approach to make it more affordable to become a health care professional and make it easier to advance in their careers. The announcement came at a press conference at Maine General Medical Center, Augusta.
Significantly, the Governor announced that $4 million from the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan will provide scholarships and student loan relief to students pursuing careers in nursing, as doctors or as other health professionals. The goal of the program is to reduce the financial burden that people interested in health care professions often must carry in order to enter the field. By making it more affordable for these individuals, the governor hopes to make pursuing a career in health care more easily attainable.
The second prong of the plan is that $8,5 million from the same funding pot, is being dedicated by the Governor to help health care workers move up the career ladder. This money is earmarked for employees to gain new skills, earn advanced credentials to enable them to advance up the career ladder. The program lowers barriers to training and education by providing the training free of charge to interested employees – as opposed to tuition reimbursement which requires upfront, out-of-pocket spending. The program is intended to help improve retention rates and increase the average wage among health care workers. The program will work with employees cross sectors – including long-term care, hospitals, behavioral health and dental sectors. Data is currently being collected in real-time via employer survey input to ensure trainings net on-the-ground needs.\
The final prong of this program is launching targeted recruitment efforts to promote health care jobs. This effort is supported by $1.5 million from the aforementioned funding. State offices will use this funding to launch a public service campaign to promote the value and importance of the health care profession with the goal of recruiting more people, especially young adults, into the field. The effort, which will span social media and radio and include a dedicated website, will market health care as a meaningful, rewarding career that provides incredible opportunity for advancements and good pay and benefits.
Health Care Career Navigators will be supported by $600,000 from the funding. They will be housed within the Maine Department of Labor’s Career Centers.
A new Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan office is being established.