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'We need a change' | Beto O'Rourke has a plan to address Texas' nursing shortage

Texas is currently 20,000 nurses short. O'Rourke's proposal calls for adding 7,500 nurses per year through a state-sponsored apprenticeship program.

HOUSTON — The race for Texas governor ran through Houston again Wednesday.

Democratic nominee Beto O'Rourke was in town to meet with area nurses. He unveiled a plan to help solve the state's nursing shortage.

"We are 20,000 nurses short," O'Rourke said. "That means patients aren't getting the care they need. That means nurses who we have are severely overworked. And it means we need a change."

O'Rourke is proposing to add 7,500 nurses per year in the state through a state-sponsored apprenticeship program.

That means Texas would pay for their undergraduate or graduate education and training in return for working across the state. But O'Rourke didn't offer specifics on what it would all cost.

"It'll be a lot less expensive than what we're paying today ... $9 billion over the last two years for travel nurses in the state of Texas. What (Gov. Greg) Abbott should have done is make sure our Texas nurses are paid their true value and that we're bringing in more of these Texas nurses into the profession," O'Rourke said.

The pandemic has made a worrisome statewide nursing shortage that much worse. It's a problem that was all too common in recent months across Harris County hospitals.

Policy experts say if the nursing shortage in Texas goes unaddressed, the number of nurses needed could easily triple in 8 years.

A spokesperson for Gov. Greg Abbott sent this statement in response to O'Rourke's announcement:

"Once again, credibility-challenged Beto O'Rourke is spreading lies. Under Governor Abbott's leadership, Texas is already providing $15 million in funding for a statewide registered apprenticeship initiative for registered nurses and healthcare professionals. Beto O'Rourke should instead focus on the law enforcement staffing shortages caused by the defund police policies he supports."

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