Opinion editor’s note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes a mix of national and local commentaries online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.
Every one of us, from the infant taking their first breath to the senior cherishing their golden years, depends on the strength and resilience of our health care system. Whether it’s a routine checkup or lifesaving surgery, we all eventually find ourselves in the caring hands of health professionals. Our health care system, driven by its dedicated workforce, is an essential part of the fabric of our communities that all Minnesotans should be proud of and a sanctuary we will all turn to one day.
But the Minnesota Hospital Association’s latest Workforce Report offers a sobering reality: While we have achieved record hiring and made strides in staff diversity, the health care workforce shortage looms large.
This isn’t merely a challenge unique to Minnesota; it’s a national crisis. From the shores of California to the Atlantic coast, to the heartlands of our state, nonprofit hospitals and health systems are grappling with the question: How will we sustainably fund medical education to ensure the continued excellence of our health care system?
Gov. Tim Walz’s recent executive order, establishing a task force to bolster the academic health sphere at the University of Minnesota, is a promising step in the right direction. This initiative recognizes that sustaining our gold standard in health care hinges on nurturing the next generation of health care professionals. Yet, as we applaud this move, we must also address a looming question with national implications: How are we going to sustainably fund medical education? This question is at the heart of ensuring we maintain our safety nets and continue delivering unparalleled care to all Minnesotans.
And while our state leadership renews its focus on this critical challenge, our nonprofit hospitals and health systems are fervently acting. They’re adopting innovative measures — from providing nation-leading pay to implementing programs aimed at advancing the careers of our esteemed health professionals. This dedication to addressing the crisis from within signifies our unwavering commitment to the cause.
Yet, our report’s data, such as the staggering 17% vacancy rate in critical roles and the 45,000 job vacancies cited by Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development, emphasize that hospitals and health systems cannot solve this crisis alone. We need strategic collaborations between educational bodies, health care providers and legislative corridors.
While we are optimistic about the outcomes of this task force process, the time is now for our legislators to join us in continued action. The forthcoming legislative session should continue to invest in solving the health care workforce shortage facing our state.
Our nonprofit hospitals and health systems, beyond being community cornerstones, represent the lifeblood of Minnesota’s well-being — and our message is clear: We need reimbursements that support the already struggling financials of hospitals, robust investments in building the health care workforce pipeline, and streamlined administrative processes at health care licensing boards so that our graduates can stay in our state.
We need both immediate interventions and long-term sustained solutions. Gov. Walz’s executive order is a commendable stride forward. With the assembly of such remarkable leaders — each bringing multifaceted expertise in health care, industry, labor, business and a wealth of diverse lived experiences — we eagerly anticipate the task force’s recommendations. It’s an opportunity for Minnesota, a state renowned for its health care prowess, to set a precedent for the nation. As we navigate this challenge, let us remember that our health care system’s value is immeasurable. Every step taken to fortify it today ensures its promise for tomorrow’s Minnesotans and generations that follow.
Rahul Koranne is president and CEO, Minnesota Hospital Association.