Suzanne Potter /California News Service
About 24 million Americans get their medical care from a Community Health Center, but 95 percent of those clinics are affected by one or more vacancies on their staff.
According to a new report, “Staffing The Safety Net,” 2 million additional patients could be served if these centers could recruit enough health-care providers. Dr. Ron Yee, chief medical officer for the National Association of Community Health Centers, which issued the report. said people with a variety of medical specialties are needed.
“Most of them are for family physicians,” he said, “and then after that, about 56 percent of health centers have openings for behavioral health staff, such as licensed clinical social workers or psychologists, or other mental-health or substance-abuse professionals.”
Lee said one reason for the shortage is that these clinics typically are located in rural, impoverished areas so it can be hard to attract candidates. His group supported full funding for the loan repayment programs of the National Health Service Corps, more investment in teaching health centers and reauthorizing funding for nurse-practitioner residency training.
Kerry Hydash, chief executive of the Family Healthcare Network in Visalia, said her organization has found innovative ways to keep its staff providers.
“Many people come to work for us from outside the area and eventually want to move closer to family,” she said. “So, in the last year we implemented a ‘grandparent relocation program,’ where we’ll help to move grandparents closer to the provider team, versus having the provider move home.”
She said the Family Healthcare Network also tries to ensure as much work-life balance as possible, and has hired people to do all the coding for electronic medical records, so providers can spend more time with the patients.
The report is online at nachc.com.