Survey Finds Low Wages Creating Labor Shortages In Maryland’s Health Care Industry

Health care worker performs her duties. Photo by theecombes via Flickr.

What’s happening?

Maryland direct-care workers—including nursing assistants, medicine assistants, and home health aides—say they’re overworked, underpaid, and leaving the healthcare industry, according to a study released by Maryland Direct Services Collaborative, a group representing frontline workers, Scott Maucione reports for WYPR. 

What are some of the study’s other findings?

According to the study, the median salary for these workers, who typically care for patients with disabilities and older adults, ranges between $23,000 and $27,000, which some say is too low to make ends meet. Many of these workers are leaving their posts, worsening labor shortages in an already-stressed medical system. 

“We made a lot of sacrifices on the frontlines for the COVID 19 pandemic,” said Rhonda, a certified medicine aide in Baltimore at a long-term elder care facility whose full name and place of work are not disclosed for fear of retaliation. “And since then, a lot of people were forced to leave healthcare due to low wages. We make about $13 or $14 an hour. It impacts our mental and physical health. You come to where you have to pick and choose when you buy your food, gas and electric, medicine and your water bill.”

Maryland has about 55,000 direct care workers, the majority of which are Black women, according to the study. Women account for about 84% of home care workers, 85% of workers at assisted living facilities, and 95% of workers in nursing homes. About 68% of home care workers are Black, as well as 80% of workers at assisted living facilities and 76% of workers at nursing homes.

Anything else I should know?

The state has pushed some initiatives to ease the financial burden of direct-care workers, including setting up the Direct Care Workforce Innovation Program last year, which awards a total of $250,000 in grants in $50,000 intervals to programs working to increase workforce retention. 

You can read more here. 

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