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Lessons from the Front Lines

Hearing studies COVID-19's impact on U.S. health care system

March 02, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to uncertainty for U.S. hospitals and placed a staggering burden on the nation’s health care workforce, a panel of frontline health care leaders told U.S. lawmakers today.

This morning, the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hosted a hearing focused on the ways COVID-19 has affected patient care, the nation’s caregivers, and the U.S. health care system. Panelists provided perspectives from the front lines and called on lawmakers to take action to support the health care workforce.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have relied too heavily on stopgap solutions instead of addressing the underlying issues,” said Megan Ranney, MD, MPH, emergency physician, Rhode Island Hospital.

Among the takeaways from the hearing:

  • Workforce shortages:  As many as one in five health care workers have left bedside care during the pandemic, requiring hospitals to resort to “extreme measures,” Ranney said. The toll of caring for patients with COVID-19, the repeated waves of the virus, and worries about transmitting to the loved ones have accelerated workforce shortages that existed before the pandemic
  • Importance of data:  The pandemic has exposed weaknesses in the public health infrastructure and the need for real-time data to be better prepared for future public health emergencies
  • Supply chain issues:  Swings in availability for testing supplies, medication, and personal protective equipment have affected patient care and created significant operational challenges for hospitals and health systems
  • Mistrust:  Misinformation has fueled hesitancy during the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and highlighted the importance of health care providers as a trusted voice
  • Next steps:  Developing pathways to careers in health care can help address clinician shortages and burnout, said Tawanda Austin, MSN, RN, NE-BC, chief nursing officer, Emory University Hospital Midtown. The panelists also discussed advances related to telehealth and urged Congress to take action to address rising costs from travel nurse staffing agencies

HAP continues to advocate for polices that will help create a more robust health care workforce, while raising awareness about the need to protect our health care heroes. Additionally, through the Health Care Talent Task Force, HAP and Pennsylvania’s hospitals are guiding the development of strategies that will help attract and retain the health care talent pool.

The hearing and written testimony from today’s panelists are available online.

For additional information, contact Laura Stevens Kent, HAP’s senior vice president, advocacy and external affairs.