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Maine Technical College System

News Release

Wednesday, October 17, 2001
CONTACT: Alice Kirkpatrick
Tel: (207) 767-0116, ext. 3

AUGUSTA, Maine—Calling the health care worker shortage an emerging crisis for Maine's health care delivery system, a statewide group comprised of health care leaders, State legislators and higher education officials called for a series of action steps to alleviate the shortage, among them beefing up college-level health care programs in Maine.

"The very well-being of Maine people depends on our having a strong health care system and the heart of that system is its workforce," said Maine Senate President Michael Michaud, a co-chair of the taskforce. "It impacts everything from our quality of life to future prospects for economic growth," he said.

A series of seven recommendations were proposed by the 17-member Committee to Address the Health Care Skilled Worker Shortage, at a press conference held this morning at the State House in Augusta. The Committee held four focus groups around the state, gathering input from about 50 health care professionals and others. Michael Tyler, President and CEO of Sandy River Health System, and Norman Ledwin, President of Eastern Maine Healthcare, also co-chaired the group.

Among the recommendations are proposals to fund grants to Maine's public and private colleges to expand health care programs and develop alternative delivery options, such as online courses, to provide greater access to programs. The group also recommended financial incentives, such as a loan forgiveness program, to encourage students to pursue health careers in Maine, and a public information campaign to promote health care as an attractive career choice. The group also called for the establishment of a Health Care Workforce Leadership Council, to provide ongoing leadership for the plan.

Michael Tyler, who presented the Committee's recommendations, said, "The worker shortage is bordering on a crisis for Maine's health care providers, and addressing it is going to require a strong partnership among providers, higher education, and the State. Quality health care is everybody's business," he said.
The proposals will be presented to the Legislature for the January session. The total cost of the proposals is $4.5 million.

Tyler said, "We recognize that not all of the recommendations can be done at once. This is going to require a long-term, sustained commitment. However, the Committee feels strongly that implementation of these actions will have a positive impact on the situation we are facing."
New survey shows Maine short over 1,000 nurses by next year

A new survey released today revealed that Maine providers will need more than 1,050 more nurses next year than Maine's higher education institutions will graduate. Maine providers are also facing shortages of radiologic technologists and technicians, health information technicians, surgical technologists, pharmacy technicians, medical transcriptionists, respiratory therapists, and medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians.
Most of the fields facing shortages require a one-year certificate or two-year associate degree. A majority of the nursing positions are for Registered Nurses, which require either an associate or bachelors degree.

Dana Connors, President of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, presented the survey results at the press conference. "This survey presents a snapshot of the need over the next year -- a need that will only grow as Maine's population ages. These are good jobs with future growth and they are essential to our economy," said Connors.

The State Chamber partnered with the Maine Technical College System's Center for Career Development, to develop and administer the survey. The survey covered 63 health care organizations representing 118 hospitals, long-term care facilities and home health agencies which together employ about 20,000 people in the health care occupations surveyed -- representing a good portion, but not all, of Maine's health care industry. Surveys also were sent to Maine's 22 public and private higher education institutions, to assess the number of graduates projected to enter health fields by the end of next year.

Committee members:

  • Michael Michaud, President, Maine Senate (Co-chair)
  • Norman Ledwin, CEO, Eastern Maine Healthcare (Co-chair)
  • Michael Tyler, CEO, Sandy River Health System (Co-chair)
  • Kenneth Bowden, CEO, First Atlantic Corporation
  • Sandra Featherman, President, University of New England and President, Maine Independent Colleges Association
  • John Fitzsimmons, President, Maine Technical College System
  • Joanne Fortin, Director of Nursing, Northern Maine Medical Center
  • Danielle Fournier, Employment Manager, Eastern Maine Medical Center
  • William Gillis, Owner, Clover Health Care
  • Julian Haynes, Executive Director of Policy Analysis, Research and Public Affairs, University of Maine System
  • Susan Longley, Senator, Maine Senate
  • Terrence MacTaggart, Chancellor, University of Maine System
  • Lisa McIlwain, VP Human Resources, Miles Health Care
  • Vernon Moore, Dean, College of Health Professions, University of New England
  • Patricia Philbrook, Executive Director, Maine State Nurses Association
  • Therese Shipps, Director of School of Nursing, University of Maine
  • Alexander Szafran, Imaging Services Administrator, Maine Medical Center