A new report concludes the high turn-over rate for “direct care” workers in Iowa health care facilities cost those institutions $117 million last year.

Erin Drinnin of the Iowa Department of Public Health says when a worker who provides direct care to a patient quits, that institution has to spend money to find a replacement.

“So any advertising they’re doing, interviewing, reference checks — those types of activities,” Drinnin says. “It also includes specific training that’s provided for new hires, so any time that that agency is spending training those individuals; and of course covering vacancies so that might mean paying other direct care professionals overtime. It might mean hiring temporary workers. Those are all included in direct costs.”

The average pay for direct care workers in Iowa is $10.45 an hour. Drinnin says most who leave the profession do so after fewer than 90 days on the job.

“There’s a lot of reasons for high turn-over in this profession,” Drinnin says. “One, of course, is that it tends to be a low wage postion which sometimes also means lower access to some benefits.”

The Iowa Direct Care Worker Advisory Council released the 2010 turnover figures for direct care workers to draw more attention to the profession.

“This workforce is actually the largest workforce in the state. There’s 55,000 direct care professionals in Iowa and we know that the demand is growing and increasing,” Drinnin says. “We have an increasing population of aging Iowans that are requesting these services and people are, more and more,  requesting these services in their homes and communities.”

The fastest-growing profession in Iowa is home health aides. Drinnin cites studies indicating another 11,000 direct care workers are needed in Iowa by 2018.

Executives at hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and other facilities which provide services to the elderly and disabled say the constant cycle of hiring and training new workers “prevents the development of crucial relationships between workers and persons served.”