January 9, 2020; Healthcare Dive

As a part of a labor agreement reached on the eve of a strike of 85,000 members of its own workforce, Kaiser Permanente has collaborated with Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) to launch a nonprofit aimed at supporting California’s health care workers.

The organization, which is to be called Futuro Health, will begin with a budget of $130 million and an intention to graduate 10,000 new licensed and credentialed workers, including nurses, medical coders, radiology technicians, and laboratory staff.

Though nowhere near at scale, the agreement responds in part to a long-predicted workforce shortage in the health professions, with California alone looking at a shortage of 450,000 healthcare workers by 2024.

“Futuro Health represents a new model for tackling the workforce shortage and training workers especially when they no longer stay with one employer for long,” SEIU-UHW President Dave Regan said in a statement. “Ensuring that all people have access to high-quality, affordable health care and a living wage is a priority of SEIU-UHW.”

This model joins a number of others aimed at building the healthcare workforce at every level. Some of that workforce has been waging battles over minimum and subsistence wages, and for the institutions and individuals they work for, that spells instability and uneven quality of care. In July, we wrote about a trio of pilot programs funded by the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation designed to support homecare workers and nurse assistants. Wilson is leading the charge with experiments like these; now, it needs more followers in this critical field of supporting this underpaid and largely marginalized workforce.—Ruth McCambridge