We are all, unfortunately, seeing very clearly the devastating third wave of the COVID tragedy and its impact on health care systems. With cases rising as the number of health and care staff decreases, the sector is faced with an ultimatum: take urgent steps to make healthcare a more attractive job.
In 2008, the World Health Organization advocated for “Treat, Train, Retain”. Where do we stand 13 years later? Health and care operators are dealing with the “exodus” of staff: driven by bad pay, too much overtime, huge workload, increasing COVID burnout and the opposition to mandatory vaccination in the care sector.
Take the challenged hospital sector in the Philippines where two in five nurses having quit working in the private hospital market. At the same time in Europe, the care sector is seeing a dramatic increase in wages in an attempt to attract staff. When the sector is not unique in its recruitment crisis – the UK is also seeing shortages in hospitality, haulage and farmworkers – operators will have to change tack to attract more staff.
Retention is not easy. Healthcare operators have told HBI that leadership training tops their list as it can lead to better time and workload management. Some recognise and celebrate success with an official bonus. Others invest in education and create a work culture that encourages development, which is very important as it makes staff feel valued.
All these are, however, likely to cause cost inflation across several health and care sectors. That’s likely to impact business renewals when and if it’s passed on to the customer, which then again shrinks workforce budgets. It’s a deadly spiral that will mostly affect smaller operators who cannot adjust their wages to beat the competition.
On the other end of the spectrum, for the market leaders, M&A opportunities seem likely. But this does not solve the labour shortage problem. Does it?
Astonishingly, it is not only low-paid workers who leave the sector. While the primary reason for quitting is inadequate pay, reasons like training and development, reduced workload and short time commute play a major role in staff retention too. It should go without saying that the first step toward preventing staff turnover is addressing workforce needs.
Is it too late? While the current approach to health and care workforce planning is fragmented and incomplete around the world, in the long term, better funding and a “Treat, Train, Retain” plan could help solve the problem. It is time to repeat the campaign step by step, starting by treating medical staff better.We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to Zinovia Fragkiadaki or call 0207 183 3779.