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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 19 April 2006

An Oregon Healthcare Workforce Institute is being organized to address the shortage of healthcare workers in Oregon — a shortage that affects accessibility to health care, as well as affordability, for families and employers.

"Health care is a major concern of Oregonians," said Gov. Ted Kulongoski who announced the institute on Tuesday. "I hear this all the time when I travel the state, but it is not just about access and affordability — it's also about quality.

"That's why this new HealthcareWorkforce Institute is so important because it gives us the tools to work together with a coordinated look to the future, stay ahead of the curve and maintain the highest standards of quality while also increasing access and driving down costs," he said.

The institute is charged with developing a coordinated statewide response to critical needs in the health care workforce. The governor developed the institute through a public-private partnership with the Oregon Workforce Investment Board,the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, Kaiser Permanente,Providence Health Systems and multiple health, education and labor partners.

Kulongoski said the institute will help all of Oregon because its mission is to research, analyze and identify the greatest occupational and training needs statewide; develop policy initiatives and recommendations for industry and local and state government; and raise funds to address the shortages and increase the quality of health care delivery.

As Oregon's population grows older and expands, so will the need for a skilled health care workforce, the governor said. The cost of labor accounts for 80 percent of overall health care costs, and this relates to the shortage of skilled workers.
Payrollcostshave increased by more than 50 percent over the past five years, due in part to overtime for employees who work more than 40 hours a week. The shortage also forces health care institutions to contract with outside providers to meet the demand for services, which is a cost-driver.

Future demands for health care workers will continue to grow, said Kulongoski, who noted that 10 of the 25 fastest-growing careers in Oregon are in health care. Between 2004 and 2014 these occupations are expected to make up 13 percent of the state's projected new jobs. During that same 10-year period, health care employers in Oregon are anticipated to need 59,000 new workers.

For more information on the institute, visit www.governor.oregon.gov/Gov/docs/healthcare041806.pdf.

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