CEO Message

On Labor Day, Remember that Health Care Is About People Caring for People

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On Monday, our nation will celebrate Labor Day — a federal holiday dedicated to honoring the accomplishments of the American worker. In health care, these accomplishments literally mean the difference between life and death. 

More than 1.5 million Californians work in health care, with about a third of them in hospitals. These are the women and men who are there — 24/7 — no matter what the emergency. From a broken bone on the soccer field on a fall day to a heart attack on Christmas morning, their commitment is unyielding. 

It is more than work. It is a calling. 

And it should be celebrated. On behalf of hospitals throughout California, thank you to all who have the privilege to work in health care, those who have the opportunity to change people’s lives for the better.  

As we honor California’s health care workers, we also look toward the future, so that generations to come can feel secure in knowing that they too will be cared for. 

There is no shortage of challenges ahead.  

America’s aging population will reshape our workforce. In the coming years, just like Social Security — where there are going to be fewer workers paying into the system at the very time more people are drawing benefits — there will be more people who need care (and more intensive care) and fewer people to provide that care. 

According to a report from the Berkeley Research Group, more than a third of all active physicians in California are over 60 years old and within five years of retirement. According to a study by Mercer, California is expected to be short by 500,000 health care workers by 2026 (medical assistants, home health aides, nursing assistants, etc.). 

That means we have to think differently about how we build a health care system for the future. How do we as providers work with our partners in education to create a training pipeline to replace retiring health care workers? How do we incentivize nurses, doctors, and other clinical roles, so they are not laden with crushing student debt? From the patient perspective, how do we provide training and support to help caregivers tend to diverse populations with diverse needs? 

While the answers to these questions might be complex, we can be certain of two things moving ahead. First, our state’s health care workers are going to be needed more than ever. And second, no matter what the solutions are to these challenges, nothing will change the immutable nature of health care: People caring for people.