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Hospitals face ‘painfully clear’ future: not enough caregivers

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Gillian Smith

As the number of new daily coronavirus cases spike across the United States, some hospitals are facing a shortage of doctors and nurses. In remote areas of the country, such shortages can limit hospitals’ ability to adequately treat patients.

Adam Seth Litwin

Associate Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations

Adam Seth Litwin, an associate professor of industrial and labor relations at Cornell University, is an expert on issues involving technological change, work and workers in the healthcare sector. He says because frontline caregivers are in such high demand, the healthcare sector may need to rely on prevention instead of treatment.

Litwin says:

“In school, we learn that capital and labor can be adjusted with a dial. If only that were true. To build a skilled workforce, policymakers need to play the long game. Even by raising wages substantially right now, they can’t instantly create more registered nurses or intensive care doctors. Times like these make that reality painfully clear.

“As much as we all want to return to normalcy, lockdowns may well be the most responsible measure. Even if the healthcare sector can somehow find more beds, it cannot just go out and buy more frontline caregivers – not when they are in demand across the globe. That means we have to rely on prevention, as treatment could become less and less of a viable alternative.”

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