Ky. House bill aims to ease shortage of EMS providers, other healthcare workers
If passed, the measure would create public-private partnerships to fund education
By Freddie Bourne
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Rep. Ken Fleming (R) hosted a press conference Wednesday in Frankfort to introduce House Bill 200, which he said is "a broad-based, very much an unprecedented approach to addressing Kentucky's healthcare workforce shortage."
"Kentucky has grown (to have) an ongoing workforce crisis," he said, "and its growing crisis threatens not only to burden families and providers but also may jeopardize the very availability of critical health services throughout Kentucky."
Fleming said he's heard "over and over again" about educational opportunities being the key to address the shortage — which is what the bill will entail.
According to Fleming, HB 200 will "kick start" interested Kentuckians that are looking to go into healthcare careers and "puts a jet pack on the healthcare training pipeline" by creating public-private partnerships to establish the Healthcare Workforce Investment Fund to be administered through the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.
Fleming said at least 65% of the funds will be used to encourage healthcare entities to partner with educational programs, to pledge funds matching dollar-for-dollar and establish scholarships for health care education.
The other 35% will be used for incentives for university and training centers to help build more faculty, along with providing equipment and other assets.
Fleming said there will also be certain metrics in terms of graduation and pass rates of licensure examinations and other standards to be used "to reward excellence."
While Fleming pointed out that Kentucky has a "rich history" of enacting successful public-private partnerships, such as the "Bucks for Brains" Endowment Match Program, which uses public dollars and private donations to encourage research and strengthen key programs at Kentucky universities, HB 200 "goes a step further."
"Based on all of the information we have come across over the past year-and-a-half, we are broadening the base," he said. "We're going to include mental health professionals, paramedics, EMTs, nursing aides, physical therapists, dental hygienists and many many others."
The bill also addresses underserved geographic regions and underserved professional disciplines, Fleming said.
"As we look at what Kentucky needs to have a viable economy, we're going to have to have a healthy economy," said Aaron Thompson, president for Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. "(To) get Kentucky where Kentucky needs to go, we're gonna have to have a lot more people in healthcare and all facets of healthcare ....
"This is important to Kentucky to access quality healthcare, and access cannot be certain without enough providers to do so."
Thompson said the bill will help employers keep hospitals and clinics open, while also being vital to higher education institutions by helping strengthen dedicated health profession programs and finding the most qualified individuals to enter the workforce.
"The best private-public partnerships are those that work on the front-end to actually build out a long, sustainable pipeline," he said. "... We will look at the return on investment, we will look at quality; it's not just about quantity. You want someone in a healthcare profession to provide you with what you need, and you want to make sure they know how to do it.
"We won't do this purely in a quantitative way. It will focus heavily on the qualitative outputs that we need."
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