TAMPA (Cap News Services) – The health care industry in Florida says it is in crisis and is pleading for lawmakers’ help in the upcoming legislative session to address chronic staffing shortages. 

The lack of employees is already resulting in people having to wait longer for care.

Florida hospitals saw one out of four nurses leave their job last year, the highest turnover rate the state has ever seen. 

“We just saw during the Delta surge what happens when you can bring beds in but you can’t staff them,” said Florida Hospital Association President Mary Mayhew.

Additionally, 92 percent of long-term care facilities say they’re facing staffing challenges.

“And for 75 percent of them it is the number one concern,” said Nick Van Der Linden with LeadingAge Florida.

Mayhew and Van Der Linden were among a diverse group of health care representatives who met Monday to raise the alarm in hopes of catching the ears of lawmakers.

For the long-term care facilities, additional Medicaid funding is the biggest ask, as the industry has seen costs increase by $600 million.

“And it doesn’t have to be strictly dollars. There can be other creative ways to do that, whether it’s looking at how we do staffing. Are there more creative ways to safely take care of our residents that will reduce costs?” said Emmett Reed with the Florida Health Care Association.

Hospitals are pushing for more faculty in nursing programs at universities.

They’re also hoping lawmakers will create incentives to increase graduation rates.

“We’ve got to replace what we’ve lost and then grow it even more for our growing population,” said Justin Senior with the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida.

If something isn’t done soon, the Florida Hospital Association estimates the state could be short nearly 60,000 nurses by 2035.

That will make it harder than it already is to find openings at nursing homes and it could also mean further delays for elective procedures.

“So it’s a dangerous situation for Floridians,” said Reed.

And with an 11 percent vacancy rate, Florida has been hit harder by nursing shortages than the nation as a whole, which has a vacancy rate of 9.9 percent.

All of the health care representatives at the roundtable agreed the staffing shortages have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

The turnover rate in nursing homes nearly doubled between 2017 to 2021.