Axios Today Podcast: Addressing the Health Worker Shortage

Almost one in five healthcare workers has quit their job since the pandemic began, according to a Morning Consult survey in recent months. So what is being done to keep healthcare workers on the job?

  • Plus, President Biden’s plan to overhaul migrant detention
  • And why GoFundMe is locked in a fight for freedom of speech

Guests: dr Vineet Arora, Dean of Medical Education at the University of Chicago School of Medicine, and Stef Kight and Hope King of Axios.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in association with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Margaret Talev, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Julia Redpath, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Sugiura, Sabeena Singhani and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected] You can send questions, comments, and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo at 202-918-4893.

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MARGARET TALEV: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Tuesday February 8th.

I’m Margaret Talev for Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: President Biden’s plan to overhaul migrant detention. Plus why GoFundMe is embroiled in a fight for free speech.

But first, how to fix the shortage of medical staff, that’s a big thing of today.

Almost one in five healthcare workers has quit their job since the pandemic began, according to a Morning Consult survey in recent months. So what is being done to keep healthcare workers on the job? To answer this question, we turned to Dr. Vineet Arora. She is Dean of Medical Education at the University of Chicago School of Medicine. dr Arora, let me start with this statistic. how big is the problem

DR. VINEET ARORA: I think everyone is incredibly focused on the pandemic and the surge and how the pandemic is ending. But I think one of the biggest challenges that people don’t anticipate is: the pandemic will eventually end, but we’ll still have this epidemic of healthcare workforce shortages. It’s a really big problem that we have people fleeing the front lines right now.

Margaret: Do you see the answer primarily in figuring out how to keep people who have already been in the field in their jobs, or is it more about getting new healthcare workers into the pipeline faster?

VINEET: That’s a great question. And it will be a bit of both. I think the challenge right now is that we are bleeding in healthcare and we need to stop the bleeding immediately and keep people in their jobs. You know, I actually work at a medical school, and there’s just no way we medical professionals are getting PhDs fast enough. So we definitely need to focus on immediate solutions: Improving the retention of our current healthcare workers by improving their salaries and benefits. Loan repayment for healthcare workers. There’s some great legislation in Congress right now: The Student Loan Forgiveness Act for Frontline Health Workers. So these are things we can do right away. There are also things we can do later, but these things will take time. And that includes things like: Relaxation of housing regulations that are on the horizon. And then we see some interest in people switching careers, especially after two years of Zoom careers. For example, people think maybe I want to help others and get active again. But the driveways to the training are not really great and not very clear. And so we could also do more in these areas.

Margaret: And we hear a lot about the gig economy today, including in healthcare. Is this a good temporary solution to this shortage?

VINEET: I, I certainly agree with the idea that you will need manpower, especially in rural and medically underserved areas. But a big part of me worries because there’s a huge body of literature showing that the more you work together as a team, the better the outcomes for patients. And so there’s some concern that if you overbuild the economy or the gig economy for healthcare, you’ve got a kind of free agent market and you don’t really have the teamwork that really highly skilled people need.

Margaret: How much active role must Congress or state legislatures play in this? How much can be done in the industry itself?

VINEET: Unfortunately there is not much we can do within the industry because our markets are highly regulated. Let’s just take the example of the assistant positions: The promotion of assistant positions is regulated at the level of 1997, when there was still a forecast surplus of doctors. And so we really need the legislative levers of the federal and state governments to be really pulled so that we can actually deal with this labor shortage.

Margaret: dr Vineet Arora is Dean of Medical Education at the University of Chicago School of Medicine. Thank you for joining us.

VINEET: Thanks for the invitation.

Margaret: And here are two key data points from our latest Ipsos survey this morning: One in three Americans expects to contract COVID within the next month. And only one in ten believes it will be over by this time next year. The bottom line is that we’ve gotten used to living with the pandemic – but we’re still at odds on how to live with it. You can read the rest of our findings and my story at

We’ll be in touch in 15 seconds with an Axios brief on Biden’s immigration policy.

[ad break]

Margaret: Welcome back to Axios Today. I’m Margaret Talev for Niala Boodhoo. Single adults attempting to cross the US border have typically been arrested. But in a new piece of news, Axios’ Stef Kight reports that in the last three weeks, half have been released with tracking devices such as ankle bracelets while awaiting trial. Stef is here with the bigger picture.

Stef, is this part of President Biden’s larger plans to end the for-profit incarceration we’ve heard about?

STEF KIGHT: We’ve definitely seen the Biden administration increasingly turn to these alternatives to detention like ankle bracelets and traceable cellphones, rather than physically locking migrants in the detention facilities typically run by for-profit corporations. So, yes, that’s certainly a trend that we’ve seen, and President Biden campaigned that he wanted to end prisons for profit, and that would certainly be part of that.

Margaret: How many people are we talking about here?

STEF: Nearly 180,000 migrants took part in these alternative-to-detention programs this weekend. And that number only counts the people who are physically enrolled in these programs, and for families that frequently cross the US-Mexico border, that would only count the head of household. That means, in addition to the 180,000 we recorded, there are other spouses and children who are not included in this number.

There were only 35,000 people on the same programs compared to a little over a year ago when the Biden administration began. And you know, this isn’t the first time this type of program has ever been used, but it’s certainly a shift in the number of people using these alternatives.

Margaret: They also report that President Biden is preparing to launch a new home containment program. What is the difference between that and what we talked about?

STEF: Yes, this will be rolling out in Houston and Baltimore over the next few weeks. The home confinement pilot program would force migrants to actually be at home at certain times of the day. So it would be a bit more oversight. And again, it’s an alternative to a detention center, but it’s also a bit stricter than some of these other systems that have been used

Margaret: Axio’s immigration reporter Stef Kight. thanks stef

Margaret: Fundraising website GoFundMe is facing backlash for blocking a campaign to raise money for a vaccine mandate protest led by Canadian truckers. This has led to a state of emergency in Canada’s capital Ottawa.

Axios business reporter Hope King has written about how GoFundMe is just the latest company to tackle this very thorny topic of content moderation. Hope, why did GoFundMe block this campaign?

HOPE KING: At first it was assumed that the protests would be peaceful. GoFundMe said they worked with organizers to figure out how the funds would be used. And as the protest dragged on – we’re going into two full weeks now – they felt that, based on what they had heard from local police, it turned into a promotion of violence and harassment, which was a direct violation of that represents Terms of Use.

Margaret: So who were the main people driving the backlash then?

TO HOPE: Most of the criticism comes from lawmakers in Republican states. So you have the Attorney General of Louisiana, West Virginia, and you also now have Senator Ted Cruz asking the FTC to open an investigation into whether GoFundMe engaged in fraudulent trading practices.

Margaret: So there is no going back for GoFundMe. If you want to give something to Canadian truckers, what are your alternatives now?

TO HOPE: Well, there is an alternative. They moved their campaign to a site called GiveSendGo. GiveSendGo describes itself as a Christian crowdfunding platform. At the same time, it has also attracted groups such as the Proud Boys in the past. So I think it’s part of another bigger part of what’s happening in technology, which is that there are now more alternative platforms for people who are being dumped by the bigger ones to go and raise money.

Margaret: Hope King is an Axios economic reporter. thanks hope

TO HOPE: Thanks very much.

Margaret: That’s all we have for you today! I’m Margaret Talev – thanks for listening, see you back here in the morning.

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