The Health Workforce Forum was established by the Maine legislature in 2005 to coordinate the information and stakeholders needed to assess current and projected shortages in a number of health occupations and to make policy recommendations. Participants include representatives of health professional associations, licensing boards, employers, education programs, Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maine Department of Labor. The law also established the Health Occupations Report, to be compiled by the Department of Labor, in conjunction with the Office of Health Data and Program Management's Office of Data, Research and Vital Statistics.
The Maine CDC, Office of Rural Health and Primary Care convened the Forum in 2007 to review Maine’s first Health Occupations Report. Preliminary recommendations were drafted and the Forum was reconvened in 2008 to renew its commitment to address workforce issues and to establish a plan for addressing them. Through discussions and based on the extensive involvement of members in the state’s health workforce issues the group developed a more comprehensive definition of the role, membership, purpose and process for the Forum. The major themes for the Forum’s work include: leadership, data, collaboration, planning strategy, and communications.
This website provides information about the Forum’s meetings and activities and access to relevant reports, articles, grants and links to state and national resources. This site is intended for Forum members and stakeholders to support communications and coordination of health care workforce development initiatives.
The Forum’s work is referenced in Maine statute for its role in reviewing Maine Department of Labor (MDOL) health care workforce data and for making recommendations to policy makers. "An Act To Ensure an Adequate Supply of a Skilled Health Care Workforce" (L.D. 892/Public Law Chapter 327) was enacted in 2005. The law established the Health Occupations Report, to be compiled by the Department of Labor, in conjunction with the Office of Health Data and Program Management's Office of Data, Research and Vital Statistics, and named the Health Workforce Forum, as the representative group of stakeholders to review the report and submit recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Maine CDC, Office of Rural Health and Primary Care convened the stakeholders in 2006 to review health workforce information, to draft recommendations based on its analysis, and to provide leadership and support for health workforce development initiatives in the state. Regular meetings have been conducted, and reports completed by DOL in 2007, and both DOL and the Forum in 2010.
During the past several years, the Departments of Health and Human Services and Labor have provided some limited funding for staff support, which has largely been in the form of staff from the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service. The Forum has acted as a hub of information related to health care workforce issues, and an opportunity for stakeholders to share information, reduce duplication of effort, and collaborate on new opportunities.
During the summer and fall of 2011 the Forum discussed and approved its structure as an independent employer lead consortium of public/private members. The purpose of this structure is to ensure a high level of communication, information sharing, coordination, collaboration, resource development, program alignment and data collection and analysis among various public and private organizations, educators, and practitioners concerned with an adequate supply of health care workers to meet health, public health and long term care needs in Maine. Additionally the Forum will provide guidance and recommendations to policy makers and it will serve as the state's Healthcare Workforce Industry Advisory Council. Based on this structure, the Forum approved a charter in June of 2012.
Given that Maine continues to face severe shortages in some health care professions, that changes in the nature of health care delivery will affect the qualifications needed, and that resourcefulness is essential for addressing workforce needs with the ultimate purpose of sustaining quality services and meeting Maine’s health and long term care needs, the Forum has made a series of findings and recommendations to help guide the state in its efforts to address these shortages. The highlights of these findings and recommendations are listed below.
1. Workforce development and health occupation planning and coordination are needed to ensure people with the right skills, are in the right place, at the right time. Changing workforce/demand patterns and trends will need concurrent adjustments in the supply pipeline.
2. A research plan is needed to coordinate and direct the collection and analysis of workforce data to support the DOL report, and coordinate data collection and analysis with licensing board and employer surveys, and to evaluate the recommendations to ensure their design and evidence-base.
3. State health policy and reform plans underestimate the importance and value of workforce planning, leaving workforce issues as an after-thought for crisis-driven responses and short term fixes.
4. Although quality programs exist that encourage entry into health occupations and career development, there is no cross-cutting tool to determine overall effectiveness and cost/benefit of these strategies statewide.
5. Shortages and the mal-distribution of oral health and primary care professionals are currently impacting access to health care, health services and the cost of services, and greater shortages are projected in 3-10 years.
6. Expectations are high for health care employment in the Maine economy.
7. Pressure is mounting for state policy makers to reduce Maine’s health care sector costs.
1. Leadership- Establish the leadership needed to coordinate and implement appropriate and effective health workforce development initiatives.
2. Workforce Data and Information - Support and improve the ongoing collection, analysis, and reporting of data needed to inform health workforce planning, policies, practices and initiatives necessary to assess workforce shortages and supply barriers, and to evaluate their impact.
3. Pipeline/Supply - Coordinate stakeholders and improve the alignment between the sources of qualified applicants and the job openings so that: workforce shortages and vacancies are limited; health care services are not compromised; and students and job-seekers moving through education, training and career development are qualified and employable for the available job openings.
4. Financial Resources and Investment - Organize the use of resources from multiple departments to support investment in health workforce development initiatives and coordinate collaborative efforts, such as applying Recovery Act, Jobs Bill, and ACA funds to health workforce needs and seeking new federal and private grant funds.
5. Workforce Effectiveness and Utilization - Identify strategies to utilize the current health workforce in ways that will help address immediate and future workforce needs.
6. Emerging Health Workforce Needs - Expand the number of occupations and scope of services considered by the Forum in order to address emerging or changing workforce needs or priorities and/or changes in the state’s health care delivery system.
These accomplishments demonstrate the value of bringing stakeholders together as a strategy for developing opportunities and cross-system solutions to Maine’s workforce needs and issues:
· In response to a 2009 ARRA solicitation a proposal was submitted and a partnership of Forum members was selected for a $4.9 million, 3-year, health sector grant awarded to Maine DOL in 2010.
· The Forum provides its members an opportunity for collaboration to address shared concerns related to health workforce.
· The Forum published a comprehensive set of recommendations to inform the state’s workforce initiatives.
· The Forum’s work provided a foundation for the state’s successful application for funds from a HRSA award of a State Health Workforce Planning Grant to the Maine Job’s Council to develop a 10 year health workforce strategic plan.