A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky continues to face a healthcare workforce shortfall that could have devastating effects

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

More than 20% of nursing positions in the Commonwealth remain vacant, according to the Kentucky Hospital Association – and combined with workforce shortages in other medical professions, the state is facing a massive health-care workforce crisis that could have crippling effects.

Ben Chandler, CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said the shortages are both straining overworked existing providers and making it more difficult for residents to access quality care.

(Click for full Kentucky Hospital Association report)

“We’re seeing shortages, really across the board. We’re certainly seeing shortages in nurses,” said Chandler. “We’re also seeing shortages for primary-care physicians. These are important entry points into the health-care system.”

The state needs at least 16,000 additional nurses to meet demand by 2024, according to data from the Kentucky Healthcare Collaborative.

State Sen. Stephen Meredith – R-Leitchfield – will be the keynote speaker at the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky’s Bost Forum next week in Lexington, highlighting the challenges facing the medical community and proposing potential solutions.

He said the health-care system is the backbone of rural economies.

“If the health system in rural Kentucky collapses, then it’s just a chain-reaction event,” said Meredith. “It’s going to cause a crisis throughout the state. It’s something we need to take seriously, and it needs solutions today.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nationwide around 1.8 million job openings are projected yearly between now and 2032, driven by increased demand and the need to replace workers who have permanently left health-care occupations.

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