An inability to fill critical positions at Washington's community health centers could make accessing health care increasingly difficult for many of the state's most vulnerable residents.
The news comes from the results of the first Community Health Center Work Force Survey.
The project was a joint venture of the Washington Association of Community and Migrant Health Centers and the Health Work Force Institute, a program affiliated with the Washington State Hospital Association.
"With one in 10 Washington residents receiving care at a community health center, it is vital that the clinics themselves are healthy," said Jaime Garcia, executive director of the Health Work Force Institute.
The 2006-2007 survey results show that community health centers are facing increasing skilled labor shortages across a variety of health care positions. At the same time, the demand for health center services continues to grow as the number of people who are underserved in Washington increases. A few major findings of the survey include:
The staff nurse vacancy rate for CHCs has increased about 40 percent between 2004 and 2007.
In comparison to hospitals, CHCs face a tougher recruiting environment for primary care practitioners, with vacancy rates generally higher than those found in hospitals.
Nearly one-third of all vacancies at CHC's were for primary care practitioners.
"Community health centers provide a link to health care for low-income and underserved populations, regardless of ability to pay," Mary Looker, chief executive officer of the Washington Association of Community and Migrant Health Centers said. "It is critical to the health of Washington residents that we are able to fill these vacancies in a timely manner."
The Washington Association of Community & Migrant Health Centers is a non-profit that advocates on behalf of the low-income, uninsured, and underserved populations of Washington State served by community health centers. These health centers serve low income and other persons with limited access to health care.
The Health Work Force Institute was founded in 2004 with the mission of developing a sustainable diverse health work force for Washington State.
The Institute works to fulfill its mission by developing public and private partnerships to provide programs that recruit, educate and retain qualified health care workers. The Institute is affiliated with the Washington State Hospital Association.