After a long, difficult year of responding to COVID-19, leaders from California’s public, private, and philanthropic sectors joined a webinar on November 17 hosted by the California Future Health Workforce Commission to discuss what must come next for our health workforce after the election. The discussion ranged from new policy and funding approaches to the next generation of cross-sector partnerships and collaborations needed to reduce inequities in access and develop a more diverse health workforce.
The Commission’s 2019 report outlined a comprehensive plan for closing the state’s health workforce gaps and building a more diverse workforce—with an estimated cost of $3 billion over the next ten years. The Commission plan included ten priority actions, from scaling workforce pipeline initiatives and expanding successful programs like PRIME across UC campuses to maximizing the role of existing skilled health workers, including nurse practitioners, community health workers, and other specialists.
“It really has been a whirlwind since the Commission’s report was released, and in many ways there have been significant advances,” said Sandra Hernández, President and CEO of the California Health Care Foundation, noting last year’s $300 million state budget investment in health workforce programs as well as the significant legislative progress this year to expand the state’s reliance on NPs, community paramedics, and peer support specialists.
“Philanthropy remains very committed to implementing a long-term plan for California’s health workforce, and the private sector has also stepped up,” she said. “Part of our goal now is to consider how the sectors can work better together—both in the short-term, to address acute workforce needs, and in the longer term to make sure we don’t experience any slippage in our programs and can keep our momentum going.”
Among the ideas discussed for expanding support to essential health care workers:
- Private sector: Thomas M. Priselac, President and CEO of Cedars-Sinai Health System, presented commitments made by private health leaders in a November Commission roundtable, including an ongoing need to invest in pipeline programs starting in high school, establish demonstration “modules” to showcase opportunities for using the existing workforce better, and expand the volume of training opportunities through a blend of public, private, and philanthropic support. (Some of these ideas were highlighted in a recent Commission issue brief, including Kaiser’s $130 million investments in allied health workers and $63 million commitment to training contact tracers, along with LA Care’s $155 million in grants to safety net clinics to hire primary care physicians and psychiatrists.)
- Newsom Administration: Marko Mijic, Acting Director of OSHPD and Deputy Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, highlighted three priorities for the Newsom Administration in the coming year: 1) Improving the alignment of health workforce training and support across state agencies; 2) Relying more on data to inform decisions, especially around the balance of supply and demand in particular health fields; and 3) Assessing the impact of existing workforce programs, from loan repayment to grant programs, to ensure they are producing the outcomes needed.
- Legislature: Assemblymember Jim Wood, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee, said he is focused in the short term on the urgent need to prepare the health system to administer a COVID-19 vaccine and support the ongoing expansion of telehealth, which many Californians are increasingly relying on to receive the care they need. Asm. Wood also expressed interest in revisiting the longer-term idea of creating a new state Office of Health Care Affordability to slow the rise of health care costs and ensure more health workers are able to practice “to the fullest extent of their education.”
- Higher Education: Michael Drake, President of the University of California, emphasized the need for successful health workforce pipeline programs to be accepted as a critical, foundational element of the higher education system—“a normal part of what we do,” as he put it—to avoid the ebbs and flows of funding that have sometimes hampered their growth. President Drake highlighted the success of the PRIME program, in particular, which has increased the diversity of the state’s health workforce, as well as the ongoing expansion of the UC Riverside Medical School and UCSF-Fresno campus, which have increased the workforce pipeline in underserved regions of the state.
- Recording: A recording of the session can be found here.
- Issue Brief – Private Sector: A recent Commission issue brief on private sector commitments to expanding the health workforce can be found here.
- Full Commission Report: The full 2019 Commission report is here.
- Philanthropy: Sandra R. Hernández, MD, President & CEO, California Health Care Foundation (Opening Remarks/Facilitator)
- Private sector: Thomas M. Priselac, MPH, President and CEO, Cedars-Sinai Health System
- Legislature: Jim Wood, Assembly Member and Chair, Assembly Health Committee, California State Legislature
- Newsom Administration: Marko Mijic, Acting Director, OSHPD; Deputy Secretary, California Health and Human Services Agency
- Education: Michael V. Drake, MD, President, University of California