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Assembly Members hear testimony on staffing crisis in New York's healthcare system

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Posted at 10:15 PM, Nov 17, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Dozens of doctors, nurses, union representatives and medical educators testified in front of members of the New York State Legislature about a staffing crisis in the state healthcare system.

"RNs, techs, and quite a bit of the work force is understaffed right now. We have to put our collective heads together to make sure this is not an issue that continues," Adam Herbst, Special Advisor to the Commissioner on Aging and Long Term Care, said.

It's important to say healthcare workers are not okay," Helen Schaub, interim political director of 1199SEIU United Health Care Workers East said, "The pandemic just really worsened what was already chronic under-staffing and shortages in many parts of the industry. We have to get at the underlying issues that cause that."

Many said one of those underlying issues is working long hours for little pay.

"I mean I do okay compared to like someone who works at McDonald's or maybe someone who works in an office as a receptionist. I have really good medical benefits, but my pay is crap compared to the hours and my education and the amount of experience I have," Amy Lee Pacholk, Public Employees Federation Member Stony Brook Medicine, said, "I've been doing this for 14 years now. I'm kind of done."

Many said there are also few people entering the medical field at every level.

"There are not enough healthcare workers across the country, and certainly in New York," Bea Grause, president of the Healthcare Association of New York State, said, "So, I think getting to the middle schools and having kids really understand how exciting and what a rewarding career it is to work in healthcare early on before they decide to go do something else is critical."

They also said if someone decides to enter the field, they often leave.

"When somebody chooses to leave the hospital or the nursing home because they're burned out, that's a failure of the entire system," Tim Johnson, Senior VP and Executive Director, Center for GME Policy and Services, Greater New York Hospital Association, said.

The health, higher education and labor committees in the State Assembly planned to take these issues to the entire Legislature.

"We really need to come together and think about, what are the bold solutions to a wicked problem," Rhonda said.