Uncertainty over universal health care hurts recruiting, hospitals say


Sen. Kevin Mullin is floating the idea of a statewide symposium to help health care providers refine their recruitment pitches in light of the state's planned universal health care program.

The Rutland Republican said last week that universal health care would greatly expand access to health coverage and result in increased demand for services.

Vermont's hospitals, especially those serving rural populations, already struggle to recruit medical professionals, and Mullin said he wants to make sure they're ready for a spike in utilization.

Human resources executives from three Vermont hospitals testified that they aren't always able to answer questions from potential employees who want to know how the state's health care reforms will impact the jobs they're considering.

"How can we sell 2017?" asked Jennifer Archambault, vice president of human resources at Copley Hospital in Morrisville, referring to the anticipated date of Vermont's transition to a universal health care system.

Archambault and others said they don't have a clear picture of how their staffing needs might change under a universal health care system.

"I don't really know enough about the upcoming changes to really start to proactively work on recruitment," said Robert Patterson, vice president of human resources at Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin.

The state is working on how to answer those questions, but Mullin expressed concern that it isn't actively sharing that information with hospital human resources departments.

The state has a workgroup focused on ensuring Vermont has the necessary health care work force to make the transition to a universal system. It is one of seven workgroups that are part of the state's Health Care Innovation Project, which was launched last year with a $45 million federal grant.

Mullin suggested a conference that would gather recruiters and human resource executives from all 14 Vermont hospitals, and give the state the opportunity to outline how utilization is likely to change and how hospitals can best answer questions from clinicians considering jobs in Vermont.

It's important for the human resources departments at hospitals, which are on the front lines of shaping the health care work force, to know the state's latest estimates on how reform will impact their organizations.

"We need some sort of idea of what that will mean to us on a really operational level," Archambault said.


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