Feb 8, 2022 - Podcasts

Fixing the health-care worker shortage

Nearly one in five health-care workers quit their jobs since the start of the pandemic, according to a poll in recent months by Morning Consult. So what’s being done to keep health care workers on the job?

  • Plus, President Biden’s plan to reshape migrant detention
  • And, why GoFundMe is ensnared in a free speech fight

Guests: Dr. Vineet Arora, Dean of Medical Education at the University of Chicago School of Medicine and Axios' Stef Kight and Hope King.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Margaret Talev, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Julia Redpath, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Sugiura, Sabeena Singhani, and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go deeper:



MARGARET TALEV: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Tuesday, February 8th.

I’m Margaret Talev in for Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: President Biden’s plan to reshape migrant detention. Plus, why GoFundMe is ensnared in a free speech fight.

But first, how to fix the healthcare worker shortage is today’s One Big Thing.

Nearly one in five healthcare workers quit their jobs since the start of the pandemic, according to a poll in recent months by Morning Consult. So what's being done to keep healthcare workers on the job? To answer that question, we called on Dr. Vineet Arora. She's the Dean of Medical Education at the University of Chicago’s School of Medicine. Dr. Arora, I want to start with that statistic. How big a problem is this?

DR. VINEET ARORA: I think everybody is incredibly focused on the pandemic and the surge and how the pandemic ends. But I think one of the biggest challenges that people do not anticipate is that: The pandemic will eventually end, but we are still going to have this epidemic of a health care workforce shortage. It's a really huge problem that we have people that are fleeing the frontline right now.

MARGARET: Do you see the answer primarily in figuring out how to keep people who were already in the field in their jobs, or is it more about getting new healthcare workers into the pipeline faster?

VINEET: That's a great question. And it's going to be a bit of both. I think the challenge right now is that we are hemorrhaging healthcare workers, and we need to stop the bleed immediately and keep people in their jobs. You know, I actually work at a medical school, and there's just no way that we're going to graduate physicians fast enough. And so we definitely need to focus on immediate solutions: Improving the retention of our current healthcare workforce by improving their salary and benefits. Loan repayment for healthcare workers. There's great legislation in Congress right now: The Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act. So those are things we can do immediately. There's also things that we can do later down the road, but those things are going to take time. And that includes things like: Loosening regulations on residency spots, which is starting to happen. And then we are seeing some interest in people switching careers, particularly after two years of a Zoom career. For example, people are thinking maybe I want to help people and get back into the action. But the on-ramps for training are not really that great and not very clear. And so we could be doing more in those areas as well.

MARGARET: And we hear a lot of conversation today about the gig economy, including in healthcare work. Is that a good temporary fix to this shortage?

VINEET: I, I certainly resonate with the idea that you're going to need workers, especially in rural areas and medically underserved areas. But a big part of me worries because there is a huge body of literature to show that the more that you work together as a team, the better your patient outcomes are. And so there is some concern that if you Uber-ize the economy, or the gig economy for healthcare, you sort of have a market of free agents and not really that teamwork that really, that highly, specialized people need.

MARGARET: How much of an active role does Congress or state legislatures have to take in this? How much can be done inside the industry itself?

VINEET: So, unfortunately we, inside the industry, there's not a lot we can do because our markets are tightly regulated. Just taking the example of residency spots: Funding for residency spots is regulated to 1997 levels, when there was a projected surplus of physicians. And so we really do need that legislative levers from both state and federal to really be pulled so that we can actually deal with this workforce shortage.

MARGARET: Dr. Vineet Arora is the Dean of Medical Education at the University of Chicago’s School of Medicine. Thanks so much for joining us.

VINEET: Thanks for having me.

MARGARET: And here are two key data points from our latest Ipsos poll out this morning - One in three Americans expects to catch COVID within the next month. And, just one in 10 thinks it will be gone by this time next year. The bottom line is we’ve gotten used to living with the pandemic — but we still disagree on how to live with it. You can read the rest of our findings and my story at axios.com

We’ll be back in 15 seconds with an Axios scoop on Biden’s immigration policies.

[ad break]

MARGARET: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Margaret Talev in for Niala Boodhoo. Single adults attempting to cross the U.S. border have typically been locked up in detention. But in a new scoop, Axios’ Stef Kight reports that in the past three weeks, half have been released with tracking devices like ankle bracelets while they await court proceedings. Stef’s here with the big picture.

Stef, is this part of President Biden's bigger plans to end for-profit detention which we’ve heard about?

STEF KIGHT: We've definitely seen the Biden administration increasingly turning to these alternatives to detention like ankle bracelets and traceable cell phones, as opposed to physically locking migrants up in the detention facilities that are typically run by for-profit companies. So, yes, this is certainly a trend that we've seen and President Biden did promise on the campaign trail that he wanted to end for profit detention centers and this would certainly be a piece of that.

MARGARET: How many people are we talking about here?

STEF: As of this weekend, there were nearly 180,000 migrants on these alternative-to-detention programs. And that number only counts the people physically enrolled in those programs and for families which often cross the U.S.-Mexico border, that would only count the head of household. So that means in addition to the 180,000 that we've tracked, there are other spouses and children who are not counted for in that number.

When you compare to, you know, just over a year ago at the start of the Biden administration, there were only 35,000 people in these same programs. And you know, this is not the first time these kinds of programs have ever been used, but it certainly is a shift in just the volume of people who are being placed on these alternatives.

MARGARET: You also report that President Biden is getting ready to roll out a new home confinement program. What is the difference between that and what we've been talking about?

STEF: Yeah, this will be rolled out in the next couple of weeks in Houston and Baltimore. The home confinement pilot program would force migrants to actually be at home at particular hours during the day. So it would be a little bit more oversight. And again, it's an alternative to a detention center, but it's also a little bit more strict than some of these other systems that have been used

MARGARET: Axios immigration reporter, Stef Kight. Thank you, Stef.

MARGARET: The fundraising website GoFundMe is facing backlash for blocking a campaign to raise money for an anti-vaccination mandate protest led by Canadian truck drivers. That's resulted in a state of emergency in Canada's capital, Ottawa.

Axios’ business reporter Hope King has been writing about how GoFundMe is just the latest company to get caught up in this very thorny issue of content moderation. Hope, why did GoFundMe block this campaign?

HOPE KING: Initially the protests were anticipated to be peaceful. GoFundMe said they had worked with the organizers to work out how the funds would be used. And as the protest dragged on - we're going into now, two full weeks - they have felt that based on what they heard on the ground from police, that it was becoming a promotion of violence and harassment which is a direct violation of its terms of service.

MARGARET: So then who were the main folks who are driving the blowback?

HOPE: Most of the criticism is coming from lawmakers from Republican states. So you have the attorney general of Louisiana, of West Virginia, and you now also have Senator Ted Cruz who is calling on the FTC to open an investigation into whether GoFundMe has committed deceptive trade practices.

MARGARET: So there's no going back for GoFundMe. If you want to give to the Canadian truck drivers, what are your alternatives now?

HOPE: Well, there is one alternative. They have moved their campaign to a site called GiveSendGo. GiveSendGo calls itself a Christian crowdfunding platform. At the same time, it's also attracted groups like the Proud Boys in the past. So I think it's part of another bigger slice of what's happening in tech, which is that there are now more alternative platforms for people who get kicked off of the bigger ones to go and to raise money.

MARGARET: Hope King is an Axios business reporter. Thanks, Hope.

HOPE: Thank you.

MARGARET: That’s all we’ve got for you today! I’m Margaret Talev - thanks for listening, we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

Go deeper