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As health worker shortages continue, state facilities rely more on temporary staff

Photo showing the outside of New Hampshire Hospital
Paul Cuno-Booth
/
NHPR
New Hampshire Hospital, an acute psychiatric facility based in Concord.

New Hampshire officials say they’re still struggling to hire enough workers at state-run health care facilities, forcing them to ramp up spending on temporary staff.

At New Hampshire Hospital – the state’s main provider of inpatient mental health care – the vacancy rate for both registered nurses and mental health workers is around 30%.

Meanwhile, at Glencliff Home – a long-term care facility for people with mental illness or a developmental disability – all five mental health worker positions are open, and the combined vacancy rate for nurses and nursing assistants is around 44%.

On Wednesday, New Hampshire’s Executive Council approved a request from the state health department to triple its current budget for temporary staffing through mid-2025, from $3.8 million to $11.5 million.

The money will go to various staffing agencies the state is contracting with for temporary nurses, nursing assistants, mental health workers and psychiatric social workers.

In a letter explaining the funding request, Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Weaver said the two facilities are doing everything they can to recruit permanent staff, but vacancies remain higher than anticipated.

“While recruitment has increased, the health care workforce shortage in New Hampshire persists and the labor market remains incredibly competitive,” Weaver wrote.

She said the use of temporary staff is necessary to continue serving patients and avoid a reduction in beds that would add to New Hampshire Hospital’s waitlist. As of Thursday, 18 adults were in emergency departments waiting for inpatient psychiatric care.

Both private and public health care facilities in New Hampshire have struggled with workforce shortages in recent years, limiting access to care.

Paul Cuno-Booth covers health and equity for NHPR. He previously worked as a reporter and editor for The Keene Sentinel, where he wrote about police accountability, local government and a range of other topics. He can be reached at pcuno-booth@nhpr.org.
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