I write first of all to voice appreciation for the physicians, nurses, CNAs and staff for the excellent and life saving care I received during my five day stay at Providence St.Mary Medical Center after a cardiac event in April 2019. They all showed they really care about their patients.
But the nurses and supportive staff are not sufficiently compensated or appreciated for their services. As the cost of living continues to rise in Walla Walla and throughout the areas where Providence hospitals serve, employees often, especially single parents, do not even make enough to find affordable housing.
In 2016 the top three administrators of Providence St. Mary made $639,607, $318,397 and $319,359 (Washington State Department of Health).
Meanwhile registered nurses made $24-$55 per hour and CNAs $12-20 per hour.
In addition to the wage issue, shifts are at times understaffed, increasing pressure on staff, and affecting their ability to perform at optimum levels.
Providence proposes to reduce paid time off by 60 or more hours and reduce sick leave banks. Needless to say, it is not in the interests of patients for sick employees to feel they must work anyway.
The proposed contract would raise administrators' salaries, who already are well compensated and able to meet their needs. I attended and taught in Walla Walla Catholic Schools, proudly learning of the heroism of Mother Joseph and the Sisters of Providence in establishing hospitals across the Pacific Northwest, usually on a shoestring. She must be turning over in her grave as Providence administrators reap generous salaries while the hard working staff so essential to good health care are often not paid enough to meet basic needs.
It goes against the nurturing instincts of all health care staff to threaten to strike. Yet patients are the ultimate losers if the staff is not treated justly.
I pray for good faith-based negotiations between Providence administrators and the unions representing Providence health care workers.