'We are in crisis': Nurses, lieutenant governor cries for more funds to tackle healthcare workforce

May 18, 2023 : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, with over 40 years of experience operating as a certified nursing assistant in the Milwaukee area, Demetrica Shipp only newly started earning $16 an hour. Her earnings make it cost-prohibitive for her to pay for health insurance.

“I have high blood pressure, and occasionally I cut my meds in half as I have to have it every day,” Shipp stated at Tuesday’s Capitol news conference. “But if you have to spend $160 a month and your light bill is $120, which one do you believe you’ll spend?”

The third-generation healthcare employee has been drawn to the profession since she began going to work with her mom when she was 12. She witnessed how the patients’ faces would “light up” when her mother walked into a room. She saw how the individuals she cared for became like a second family. Despite the salary, Shipp said she’s not turning her back on her patients.

Shipp, additional CNAs, and nurses, including Lt. Gov. Sara Rodriguez, talked about the increasing demands on healthcare workers as the state labors with a workforce shortage increased by the COVID-19 pandemic and is predicted to worsen as the resident’s age.

Gov. Tony Evers had included approximately $45 million in his two-year budget for two endeavors to retain and train more employees like Shipp, including $44.5 million to develop a minimum cost scale for home- and community-based health care services, such as employees who provide in-home care.

The budget was among the more than 500 items stripped from Evers’ suggested budget by Republicans on the state’s budget-writing panel. Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, is co-chairman of the joint finance committee, pointed to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Tuesday that while the objects were removed, other possibilities would be explored to address the nursing lack.

“The governor’s budget was idealistic and unsustainable, creating numerous new agendas and massively expanding the size of government,” Born said. “Republicans will look for ways to build on our past assets in the long-term care industry and continue funding in health care throughout our state.”

The lack of healthcare employees, which already exceeds 8,000 positions, is anticipated to reach 20,000 nurses within 12 years; at the same period, a large percentage of the state’s population — 1.4 million Wisconsinites — are turning 60 or more senior, as per Amy Pechacek, secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

She anointed the “Silver Tsunami,” the aging population’s requirements are hitting simultaneously. Multiple are aging out of the healthcare workforce, as per a 2022 report from the Wisconsin Hospital Association. For instance, the vacancy rates for recorded nurse positions increased from 2020 to 2021. Some hospitals offered to sign gratuities of $10,000 to compete for the shrinking pool of healthcare employees.