Job applications overwhelm HME providers

Sunday, November 29, 2009

YARMOUTH, Maine - Many providers are trying to put a lid on expenditures to avoid laying off employees, but there a few hanging up proverbial "help wanted" signs.

Provider Robert Slama is trying to fill several new, full-time positions.

"Business is booming," said Slama, owner of Medi-Healthcare in Lakeland, Fla. "We've picked up several large contracts, and we've seen some competitors go out of business. We need repair and delivery techs."

Provider Gary Sheehan has hired half-a-dozen new full- and part-time employees for several departments, including respiratory, billing and retail. He has seen a lot of overqualified job candidates.

"You really have to stick to your knitting," said Sheehan, CEO of Sandwich, Mass.-based Cape Medical Supply. "The last thing you want is to train someone and then have them leave when the economy rebounds."

While the national unemployment rate is 10.2%, a 26-year high, HME and healthcare jobs have remained a little more stable, says Ian McCracken, president of Professional Recruiting International. He expects staffing levels to stay roughly the same into at least the first two quarters of 2010.

"Very few companies are hiring right now and if they are doing so it is only to replace those key profit center positions," he said. "Some companies are still currently laying employees off and trying to become even more lean."

With so many people looking for work, it's easy for companies that are hiring to be overwhelmed with applications.

"If we run a newspaper ad, we get bombarded," said Slama. "We are doing it more word-of-mouth. We try to hire locally and hire people who are familiar with the area."

Sheehan also prefers the word-of-mouth approach, although he's had some success with online and print advertising.

"We try to be specific about what we are looking for, but you can get an awful lot of (applicants who don't match)," he said. "It doesn't take a genius to figure out there are a lot of good people out of work."