Low-paid Hospital Workers Seen As Victims Of Change

Economists Predict Drop In Inpatient Services

April 25, 1997|By M. William Salganik | M. William Salganik,SUN STAFF

Cost pressures will not cause health care employment to decline but will produce a shift in jobs that might cause the greatest pain among people in lower-paying hospital jobs, health economists told a conference at the University of Baltimore's Schaefer Center for Public Policy yesterday.

"The health care system is growing overall, but we're seeing a dislocation in jobs," said Howard S. Berliner, chairman of the health services management and policy program at the New School for Social Research in New York.

"Because of the emphasis on cost effectiveness," said Ronald C. Lippincott, an associate professor of public affairs at University of Baltimore, the health system will "move as much care as possible away from the hospitals."

This would mean, Berliner said, job cuts at hospitals, particularly in areas, such as food service, designed to provide inpatient care. Unionized food service workers in New York hospitals, he said, make about $23,000 a year with benefits; comparable jobs in restaurants pay $13,000 without benefits.

While hospitals might have fewer nurses caring for patients, several panelists said, many nurses will be able to work in growing segments such as nursing homes and home health care. Also, more nurses are working in administrative jobs, inside hospitals and out, monitoring quality and costs.

Other job categories that will be winners, Lippincott said, include actuaries, biostatisticians, and physical and occupational therapists.

Changes in health will even mean a job shift among state bureaucrats, said Barbara Shipnuck, deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. As the state moves 330,000 Medicaid recipients into HMOs and other managed-care plans beginning in June, she said, the state will no longer need to process hundreds of thousands of individual claims but will need more people to monitor the managed-care organizations.

The overall impact -- including opportunity for growth -- in Maryland is large because health employs one in eight Marylanders, said Victor Hoskins, assistant director for marketing at the Department of Business and Economic Development. According to DBED, 199,393 Marylanders were employed in health in 1994 -- up 26 percent since 1988 -- earning $6.2 billion a year.

David Levy, a professor of economics at University of Baltimore, said Maryland's system of regulating hospital rates means "we are not subject to the turmoil other states have faced," so job dislocation here might be less than elsewhere.

About 50 people attended the daylong conference, "Health Care Employment in Maryland: Planning for Change."

Pub Date: 4/25/97

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