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Gov. Phil Murphy’s mandate this week requiring COVID–19 vaccines and boosters for all healthcare workers – without a test-out option – is expected to further impact staffing levels and quality of care.

As a result of industry workforce challenges evident before the announcement, NJBIA and several prominent healthcare groups offered the Murphy administration recommendations to ease current and future staffing pains. 

In a letter to Murphy, his staff and legislative leadership, the groups first suggested that temporary waivers that allowed for flexibility in healthcare settings – which were recently extended – become permanent to “eliminate unnecessary red tape and allow healthcare professionals to care for patients in the most effective and efficient manner beyond the pandemic.” 

“Examples of such orders that will combat the workforce shortage are those addressing license reciprocity, staffing ratios, administration of COVID-19 tests and vaccines and telehealth,” the groups wrote. 

Signatories on the letter included leadership from the ACI Medical and Dental School, Garden State Pharmacy Owners, Health Care Association of New Jersey, Home Care & Hospice Association of New Jersey, LeadingAge NJ & DE, New Jersey Dental Association, New Jersey Hospital Association, New Jersey Pharmacists Association and NJBIA. 

In addition, for the short term, the groups also sought immediate financial assistance from American Rescue Plan Act funding to stabilize the industry – as other states have done. 

The state of Texas has spent $7 billion in federal pandemic relief funds to hire temporary nurses, respiratory therapists, and doctors to support hospitals and an additional $400 million to address staffing shortages in long-term care facilities,” they wrote. “Georgia spent $125 million to hire 1,500 temporary hospital workers.  

“Similar funding in New Jersey can provide immediate incentives for employees to work in this critical sector.” 

For the longer term, the signatories requested the Murphy administration work together with stakeholder groups to attract and retain workers in the healthcare industries. 

“We strongly encourage the Department of Education and the Department of Health work with our associations to ensure all appropriate incentives, funding and curriculum standards are in place to support certified nursing assistant and certified homemaker-home health aide advancement,” they wrote.  

New Jersey has indeed already taken steps to invest in workforce development in healthcare and other areas through a financial commitment to the New Jersey Pathways and Skills Collaborative, led by NJBIA and New Jersey Community Colleges, which just recently launched. 

But more comprehensive support was also encouraged. They cited the recent announcement by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul of a $10 billion plan to increase the state’s healthcare workforce by 20% over the next five years. 

The plan includes $4 billion to support employee wages and bonuses and $2 billion for improving the healthcare infrastructure.  

“Governor Hochul’s plan also includes providing financial support to students pursuing degrees in healthcare,” they said. 

The groups also urged the administration to address licensure reforms where appropriate to allow for greater flexibility and opportunities in the workforce.  

“One such area would be to pursue dual licensure for certified nursing assistants and certified homemaker-home health aides,” they said. 

To read the full letter, click here.