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Funding in Governor’s budget for healthcare encouraging

By Staff | Dec 12, 2008

North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven unveiled his budget for the next biennium earlier this month, and as expected, it included significant funding — to the tune of $130 million for public school education; $96 million for higher education; $300 million in property tax relief; $357 million for one-time capital projects and infrastructure improvements, and a five percent raise for state employees.

And it provided a sizable salary increase — seven percent –over the next two years for employees of agencies that care for developmentally disabled citizens, nursing home workers and other long term care providers.

That’s significant because in past budget sessions health care administrators and lawmakers had to look at other funding sources, including in the state’s health and human services budget, to carve out dollars for those health agencies. And that meant taking funds away from other important programs and services.

Now that it’s a line item in Hoeven’s budget, those steps won’t be necessary.

Certainly, the state’s healthy financial status is the reason those dollars are available in this budget. However, Hoeven should be commended for identifying this critical need and addressing it. Health care is the second largest industry in the state, and its needs should garner a good share of the attention of state lawmakers.

Hospitals and nursing homes have encountered their share of struggles, namely lack of adequate federal reimbursement and shortages in staff, including care providers in long term care units.

It takes a dedicated person to go through the necessary training to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), helping provide basic care, especially to the elderly. Many times they are the only family these patients have.

Finding those individuals has been a challenge, since hospitals and other health agencies simply don’t have the funds to pay them higher wages. As a result, they go to other jobs which offer higher wages and benefits. And there is often high turnover, which also affects the continuity of care.

This funding will bump that pay to respectable levels and hopefully will help create a stable workforce, and in time, attract more care providers and help to strengthen the level of care provided.

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