The Maine Health Workforce Forum is an effort to continue the dialogue initiated by the Maine legislature. Back in 2005, the state established this organization to evaluate and make policy recommendations due to the projected labor shortage of qualified health professionals. Flash forward to 2019 and this role has reverted back to Maine’s Department of Labor Workforce Development. That doesn’t mean the need for dedicated efforts toward the state’s healthcare workforce has vanished. The projected shortage in the state’s health workforce has, indeed, come to fruition and doesn’t look any better five, ten, twenty years into the future.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the healthcare industry as a whole has found a way to get more productivity out of our health workforce through upgrades to recordkeeping, medical supply and technology, and other infrastructure—while reducing dependence on hospital facilities. These gains, though important, can’t continue forever. At some point, we really are going to have to find a way to get more people into the state’s health workforce or else we face serious deficits in our standard of care. Things that patients currently expect will become inaccessible. Serious, even deadly, consequences are inevitable.

We’ll lose lives. Our health will suffer. Doctors and nurses will be put in increasingly impossible situations. Some of this is likely inevitable, but it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. It could be better, but it could be worse. The Maine Health Workforce Forum is back in a new form and ready to figure out what we can do to make things better.