Staffing a health care and research facility is tough enough, but recruiting health professionals in a state like California — where demand for qualified employees is as sky-high as the cost of living and where the population is growing, aging and becoming increasingly diverse — is nearly impossible.
George Vukazich of City of Hope’s Department of Human Resources is keenly aware of the challenges involved with developing a diverse health-care workforce.
The topic has quickly moved to the forefront for state lawmakers, as well, and Vukazich laid out some solutions before a panel lead by California Assemblymember Ed Hernandez, O.D., at the recent Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation Health Summit in West Los Angeles. “City of Hope’s patient census has shown a sizable increase, and patient acuity is very high compared to other facilities,” said Vukazich. “Having a bilingual staff that is attuned to a patient’s needs is a component of maintaining a high level of quality care.”
|George Vukazich, right, serves on a panel with experts such as Hector Javier Preciado, left, of the Greenlining Institute. (Photo by Diego de la Garza)|
According to a recent report from the California Healthcare Workforce Diversity Advisory Council, the state’s population is among the most ethnically diverse in the country, but the make up of California’s health-care workforce does not reflect this. In 2005, the state’s population was about 36 percent Latino, 6 percent black, 12 percent Asian/Pacific Islander and 43 percent white, and the state is set for a population shift that will include a dramatic increase in Latino and Asian/Pacific Islander populations, as well as the aged.
These demographic shifts already are causing gaps between workforce supply and demand, the council reported. By 2014, the projected demand will exceed supply for pharmacy technicians by 119 percent, for dental hygienists by 122 percent, for physical therapist assistants by 178 percent and for clinical laboratory scientists by 559 percent.
Vukazich offered the panel a mix of solutions for private and public sector workforce development.
“It’s the responsibility of health-care providers to have effective recruitment and retention programs that reach out to a broad population,” said Vukazich. “City of Hope has concentrated efforts on working with diverse networking associations, creating scholarship programs with community colleges, tuition assistance programs and retention bonuses.”
Vukazich suggested lawmakers could help through similar tactics. “The state can do more by providing more health-care related scholarships, funding regional occupation programs and internships and ensuring there are enough places to train tomorrow’s workforce,” he said.
The Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation Health Summit took place Aug. 8 at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation educates, supports and develops outreach to Latinos about the California state government.