Employment paradox: Hospitals hiring, firing workers

While escalating costs and shrinking state reimbursements are forcing hospitals to preemptively lay off workers, health reform (and the influx of patients that comes along with it) is causing those same facilities to bring in new employees as well.

For instance, although New Hampshire's Exeter Hospital cut 110 jobs and closed a skilled nursing facility in September, it still is hiring administrative workers, reports Kaiser Health News and USA Today.

Other hospitals like Exeter have cut back on jobs and services, thanks to reduced Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. Yet, the healthcare industry still remains a bright spot in the still weakened economy: Labor demand across all industries dipped for the sixth consecutive month but healthcare practitioners and technical workers posted 23,300 more jobs in November, FierceHealthcare reported yesterday.

Most of the healthcare hiring is related to handling the burdens of health reform with the positions directed toward clerks and administrators, KHN notes. "We need to deal with new technology, new services, new regulations, electronic health records, government reporting requirements on quality," Exeter's Vice President for Strategy Mark Whitney said.

Such hospital employment trends echo September research in the New England Journal of Medicine, which found that health reform calls for more administrative support, not physicians and nurses. Massachusetts, the model for the national reform law, saw significant growth in administrative jobs post-reform, at 18.4 percent from 2005-2006 to 2008-2009, while nonadministrative healthcare workers only rose 9.3 percent after reform.

However, administrative positions could join clinician jobs on the chopping block if the Supreme Court rules against the law in 2012 or Republicans regain control of the White House, KHN notes.

For more information:
- read the KHN/USA Today article