HSHS to increase employee minimum wage to $15

·4 min read

Oct. 16—Hospital Sisters Health System, the owners and operators of St. Anthony's Memorial Hospital, will be increasing its minimum wage to $15 for more than 3,000 employees at its 15 hospitals across Illinois and Wisconsin.

The move will impact entry-level workers currently working at the company's current minimum wage, which is higher than the $11 an hour wage in place in Illinois and the $7.50 an hour wage of Wisconsin. The increase will take effect on Oct. 31.

Damond Boatwright, HSHS' president and CEO, said during a Friday press conference that the move was a $5-10 million dollar investment in the workforce at St. Anthony's and the other hospitals in the company's footprint.

"We feel that it's important to raise the HSHS minimum wage higher now so we can better retain and attract the most engaged, committed and talented people to fulfill our healing mission," Boatwright said. "It's not just raising rates (and) that's one piece in recruitment and retaining employees, but we also hope it enables our HSHS colleagues and potential hires in improving their overall life."

Pandemic-related factors contributed to HSHS making the move to enhance wages for their employees.

"HSHS has never experienced such difficulty in attracting and retaining for entry level positions," SAID Catie Sheehan, vice president of advocacy/communications with HSHS. "We know many other employers are facing the same reality."

Boatwright said that stress and strain have led to open positions being difficult for the company to fill through traditional means.

"Almost every position right now is hard to fill," Boatwright said. "There's been a lot of emotional stress that's been caused over the last 18 months due to the pandemic and now we're on our fourth surge. It's starting to cause strain and stress, both professionally and personally. We're seeing many positions that are hard to fill right now and every one of our positions matter in order for us to have the kind of care delivery system to stay functional."

He used a bank metaphor to describe the action that the company took Friday, calling the wage increase a "deposit" to balance out the many "withdrawals" that have taken place in many families' lives during the pandemic.

"Particularly for our colleagues, this is something that we feel is the right thing to do," Boatwright said. "Any time that we can find a way to do that, we want to do it, happily."

Boatwright said that there wouldn't be any correlation to an increase in health care costs for consumers, noting that the company had planned for the increase through reducing the costs of supply management, pharmacy utilization and standardization of equipment used by physicians.

"There's a lot of things that we are doing in a non-standardized way," Boatwright said. "We can get better economies of scale by acting more like a true system. Think about it, (with) 16 different hospitals purchasing one item, you can get a better deal than one individual hospital ordering the same item. There's better clinical standards of care, protocols that can drive better efficiencies through the organization and better supply management that we can do overall. There are savings to be had if you know where to look."

HSHS hospitals serve rural areas much like Effingham and Boatwright said that the pay increase can provide a big boost to those communities through retention and attraction of employees to those areas.

"We want to try every single opportunity that we can to help our colleagues become stable (financially) themselves," Boatwright said. "Many of our colleagues are from the communities that we serve and many of our hospitals are in rural communities. Our rural communities have been under stress far before COVID even existed.

"I personally feel like those communities matter and the people in those communities matter. Often times they go unnoticed and I hope that our investment in our colleagues who live in those communities make those communities stronger."

While money and wages are an important factor in one's decision to take a job, the comfort level that one has with their prospective company can loom large as well. With the decision to up the pay of thousands of people, Boatwright is betting that the combination of company culture and solid pay can help HSHS defy the current trends of stagnant job growth in the medical field.

"Money isn't the only solution here," Boatwright said. "It's also the emotional well-being of our organization. That keeps me up at night, so one of the future investments that we plan on making is into the physical wellness and emotional well-being of our employees to create the kind of healthy work environment that even during stressful and challenging times, we can be both resilient as well as finding meaning in the work we do."

Zach Roth can be reached at zach.roth@effinghamdailynews.com or by phone at (217) 347-7151 ext. 132 or (217) 899-4338.

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