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Miles’ proposal to establish regional healthcare workforce center in Owensboro receives full House support

March 13, 2022 | 12:07 am

Updated March 14, 2022 | 9:38 pm

A measure that would ultimately establish a healthcare workforce center in Owensboro received full support from the House this week. House Majority Caucus Chair Suzanne Miles filed the legislation to address the state’s healthcare worker shortage. It includes a regional pilot program with a hands-on training facility in Owensboro that services 18 western Kentucky counties.

Members of the House voted 91-0 on Friday to approve House Bill 751. The bill was cosponsored by legislators from throughout the region and has the support of members from throughout the state.

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HB 751 would establish the Commonwealth West Healthcare Workforce Innovation Center (CWHWIC) in Owensboro as a regional partnership that would serve as a health education and training facility featuring hands-on learning opportunities. Under the provisions of HB 751, the legislature would provide a portion of the startup funds for the center, which would also receive funding from other public and private sources.

The consortium of higher education institutions includes both public and private schools. The partnership would create regional learning opportunities, eliminating duplicate class offerings and streamlining training.

“The House passage of legislation to help fund the Commonwealth West Healthcare Workforce Innovation Center brings us one step closer to a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a difference in the health and lives of western Kentucky residents,” said Mark Marsh, president and CEO of Owensboro Health. “We are grateful for the collaboration and decisive action by all our partners to address critical nursing and healthcare workforce shortages. Together we will bring to life a bold new concept in education and training to ensure our neighbors in the region have access to quality healthcare for years to come.”

Under the provisions of HB 751, postsecondary, high school, and nontraditional students enrolled in public and private schools would partner with healthcare providers like Owensboro Health, as well as businesses and other public and private entities.

Dr. Scott Williams, president of Owensboro Community Technical College, added that OCTC is looking forward to this proposal becoming reality.

“This truly innovative and collaborative regional solution has the potential to address the crippling healthcare workforce shortage and serve as a model for other regions in the Commonwealth,” he said.

An October membership poll by the Kentucky Nurses Association in October provides a startling look at one segment of the shortage. According to the survey, 73% of nurses polled said the driving factor behind their burnout and the overall workforce shortage was untenable patient loads and too few nursing staff. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing notes that the shortage is national and attributes the fact that nursing school enrollment is not keeping up with demand. In addition, jobs in rural areas are historically more difficult to fill.

“As with so many other issues we face, the pandemic exacerbated an existing shortage in healthcare workers. For decades, we’ve seen fewer people interested in pursuing a career in this field and now we face a rapidly declining workforce,” Miles said. “What better place to look for a solution than to the people with boots on the ground who know best what it will take to rebuild this workforce. The result is an incredible public/private partnership that also includes the support of businesses, local governments, and individuals.”

According to Representative DJ Johnson, a primary cosponsor of HB 751, the unanimous vote also illustrates how those involved in the project have worked to build support with legislators from other areas.

“There is a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for this proposal and it goes far beyond the 18 counties included in the region. We’ve met with legislators from across the state to help them understand that this innovation center will produce qualified, passionate, and well trained health care workers who build careers in other communities. We’re also creating a model that might be duplicated in other regions,” Johnson said.

A summary and the full text of HB 751 can be found on the legislature’s website at legislature.ky.gov

March 13, 2022 | 12:07 am

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