Gov. Mills announces $14 million plan to strengthen health care workforce

Gov. Mills speaks at a press conference Monday in Augusta
Gov. Mills speaks at a press conference Monday in Augusta(WABI)
Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 6:25 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Governor Janet Mills is launching a four-pronged effort to bolster Maine’s health care workforce. The multi-million dollar campaign is the latest investment from the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, which is federally funded by the American Recovery Plan.

Driven by both a retiring workforce and an aging population, Maine’s shortage of health care workers was an issue prior to COVID-19.

The pandemic only made it worse.

“I can’t say enough how inspiring these health care heroes are. But like other hospitals in the state, our staff is stretched thin. It’s been all hands on deck for 19 months,” said Chuck Hays, President and CEO of MaineGeneral Health & MaineGeneral Medical Center.

On Monday, the Mills Administration announced $14 million in new initiatives to address the workforce shortage.

“To make it more affordable for Maine people to pursue health care jobs, we plan to invest $4 million in scholarships and student loan relief,” Gov. Mills said at Monday’s news conference. “To encourage existing health care workers to move up the career ladder, we will invest $8.5 million to make training for new skills and new credentials cost-free.”

The other initiatives include a $1.5 million marketing campaign, and $600,000 to launch Maine’s Health Care Career Navigators, a new service to guide those interested in health care to a job that’s the right fit.

“With these initiatives, we want to make it easier and more affordable for people, especially young people, to pursue careers in health care, move up the career ladder into higher paying jobs, understanding that these jobs provide a rewarding opportunity to do life-saving work, and make a good wage with benefits at the same time,” said Gov. Mills.

Health care executives who spoke at Monday’s press conference are optimistic these steps guide Maine in the right direction.

“This investment gives health care providers a much-needed boost of hope,” said Darcy Shargo, Maine Primary Care Association CEO.

“These are important first steps in addressing Maine’s health care shortage,” said Angela Westhoff, President and CEO of the Maine Health Care Association. “As the pandemic continues, it’s critically important that we work collaboratively to address these challenges and implement short and long term strategies to recruit and retain our caregivers.”

Republican State Representative Joshua Morris of Turner responded to Mills’ plan Monday. His statement says:

“This plan is a partial long-term solution at best. My constituents are facing less access to health care right this second, and this announcement does nothing to address that. It’s time for Governor Mills to face reality: we have a problem now and she has the ability to fix it now. We have people qualified and ready to work now, and her mandate is the only thing that stands in the way. She needs to put her partisan ideology aside and get back to thinking about the scared Mainers trying to access healthcare across this state.”

That reference is to the health care worker COVID-19 vaccine mandate which the state will begin enforcing Friday.

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