By MARC LUTZ
Business Journal Editor
STOCKTON — Healthcare, education, workforce development and government leaders from throughout San Joaquin County came together on Oct. 23 to find solutions to the Central Valley’s ailing healthcare industry.
The San Joaquin Area Health Sector Partnership was established to create solutions to the lack of healthcare workers in the region.
The partnership is focused on creating programs that will help not only bring quality workers to the area and retain them, but on establishing training in San Joaquin County available to current residents and getting to students as they graduate from high school.
“Is this going to be good for our students and their families? Absolutely,” said Dr. Kathy Hart, superintendent and president of San Joaquin Delta Community College. “We need healthcare and to improve our relationship with the healthcare industry. This is a formalized and operational group that can solve those problems.”
Hart is also co-chair of the Health Sector Partnership with Chuck Winn, San Joaquin County Board supervisor, and Daniel Wolcott, CEO and president of Adventist Health Lodi Memorial.
According to Paul Downs, principal consultant at Paul Downs Consulting, the Health Sector Partnership workshop had two main goals: the first being to get stakeholders’ input on how to develop health sector output correctly, and the second being to determine those occupations which should receive the primary focus.
Outside of a need for physicians, employment data shows a lack of skilled nurses entering the workforce. Indeed, there is a need in all areas of nursing, but none so much as registered nurses. According to labor market analysis presented at the workshop, there are 911 annual openings for registered nurses in the region. That’s more than four times any other healthcare career pathways.
Many healthcare workers in their sixties and seventies, who would otherwise retire, are staying at work because of the shortage.
“We’re seeing highly skilled people getting ready to (retire),” said Brendon Prideaux, regional director of talent acquisition with Adventist Health Lodi Memorial, one of the healthcare providers that are involved with the partnership. “We have (nurses) staying onboard because nobody is coming in (to replace them). The nursing shortage is no secret.”
As presentations were made by Downs and his partner Jim Torrens, those in attendance discussed the career pathways where they thought the need was the greatest. Nursing was settled upon.
Finding the solutions to the workforce need is a community-wide problem that should involve every sector.
“This work is imperative to the well-being of our community,” Wolcott said. He stated that there should be a focus on continued education and job fulfillment. “The power of this comes from collaboration. Solutions to national problems start with solutions to local problems.”
In working together, Winn pointed out that more resources could be shared and more could be accomplished. He said that agencies working together could apply for larger grant amounts, benefitting communities across the region.
“The more (students) we can train, the more we can keep,” Winn said. “It’s a boost to the economy and the community.”
Along with Delta College and Lodi Memorial, other organizations involved with the partnership are:
- Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Medical Center
- Sutter Tracy Community Hospital
- San Joaquin General Hospital
- Dameron Hospital
- Kaiser Permanente
- Doctor’s Hospital of Manteca
- Community Medical Centers
- Health Plan of San Joaquin
- San Joaquin County Health Care Services
- San Joaquin County Behavioral Health
- San Joaquin County WorkNet
- Delta Sierra Adult Education Alliance
- Community Health Leadership Council
- Hospital Council of Northern and Central California
- Business Council, Inc.
- Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce
One of the biggest problems faced is that of total compensation, according to Anette Smith-Dohring, Workforce Development Program manager with Sutter Health. Jobs are leaving the area, because places like the East Bay and Sacramento can afford to pay more in wages and in benefits packages.
“The goal of the Health Sector Partnership is creating our own talent. If people can be educated and stay in the community, it’s much better,” Dohring said. She went on to say that similar programs across the country are seeing success, and the local partnership can learn from those successes. “If we can put all those pieces together, it’s going to be fantastic.”
More shirtsleeve meetings will be held to identify resources and launch an initiative. Those who wish to be involved can call or email Lita Wallach, strategy and project management consultant at Wallach and Associates, at (209) 210-8898 or [email protected]