Panel focuses on local health care industry and aging population – The Post Star

WILTON — As Warren County’s largest demographic — the baby boomers — reach old age, local health care leaders are discussing how to accommodate the region’s fastest-growing industry, and the current challenges that employers and educators face.

Health care is in the top three biggest industries in the area, surpassing tourism and hospitality, according to Dennis Brobson, president of the Saratoga Economic Development Corp.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a correlation between the aging demographic and job growth in the health care sector in the area. The bureau estimates a 16% growth through 2030, which amounts to around 2.6 million jobs in the industry.

Brobson moderated a discussion Thursday night at SUNY Adirondack’s Wilton campus between Marcy Dreimiller, vice president of human resources at Saratoga Hospital; Dutch Hayward, chief operating officer of The Wesley Community; Ali Skinner, vice president of communications strategy at CDPHP; Susan Corney, executive vice president of human resources for Hudson Headwaters Health Network; and Holly Ahern, associate professor of microbiology at SUNY Adirondack.

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By co-hosting the event with the SEDC, SUNY Adirondack aims to make people more aware of the health programs available to students, as well as their top educational facilities and technology.

For example, the Wilton campus is home to an anatomage: a 3D virtual dissection table. It’s 3D touch-based interface allows users to simulate surgery on a person. Users can filter through different layers of the human anatomy and view the various human systems.

The development of new medical technology is a big catalyst for the growth in the industry, which was among the things discussed Thursday night.

“Last year, we were using artificial intelligence for stroke care,” Cassandra Moore, the service line manager and director of Glens Falls Hospital’s stroke and neurology program said.

Moore is a graduate of the SUNY Adirondack’s nursing program and knew ever since she entered the college’s highly competitive program that she wanted to help people. She didn’t know what that was going to look like because the job hadn’t existed yet.

“It’s been four and a half years since we started the stroke-care program at Glens Falls Hospital. Before then patients used to be transferred to the Albany hospital,” Moore said.

Moore now spearheads the stroke-care program at Glens Falls Hospital.

Her story is an example of the kind of demand that is needed in the region’s health care. As that demand increases as baby boomers reach old age, new jobs will have to be created.

Saratoga Hospital in the last five years has expanded from 17,000 positions to 31,000, and that number will only get bigger.

“When there’s a demand and not enough of a workforce, that’s when you know it needs to grow,” Dreimiller said.

Applications declining

The amount of people applying to jobs at Saratoga Hospital, however, has been cut in half in recent years, from 10,000 annually to 5,000, according to Dreimiller.

“To say that the health care industry is lacking workers is an understatement,” Kristine Duffy, president of SUNY Adirondack, said in an interview over the phone earlier in the week.

According to the panelists, some of the underlying issues were made worse because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID-19 has created a high burnout rate for health care workers,” Duffy said in the interview.

The pandemic has also caused a high burnout rate for students, with many students having dropped out in the last couple of years. SUNY Adirondack has tried to adapt by changing some of its teaching methods, such as offering more remote options, according Ahern.

Student debt is another huge issue that is stopping students from not only finishing education, but from entering health care programs.

“Debt is one of the most important things we need to address,” Corney from Hudson Headwaters Health Network said.

“Young people with debt do not want to pursue a career in health care,” Dreimiller said.

The pandemic has also exacerbated mental health and substance abuse crises, which could very well be a contributor to the decline of student enrollment, according to Ali Skinner from CDPHP.

Skinner said that from 2020 to 2021, the health insurance company has seen a 40% increase in mental health cases. Which then creates another issue: how do they accommodate this influx of cases?

“We don’t have enough people for that,” Skinner said.

“These are all things we saw before the pandemic, but have been exacerbated because of the pandemic, Skinner added.

Technology has, however, helped combat this, according to Skinner.

Remote access, like it has at SUNY Adirondack, has helped specialists navigate the current health landscape, according to Skinner.

“It’s pretty amazing what virtual health has done,” she said.

Drew Wardle is a reporter for The Post-Star. You can contact him at 518-681-7343 or email him at

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