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Rally seeks better pay for Maui health workers: Maui Now

PC file photo: UNAC/UHCP in Maui

Rallying healthcare workers want ‘fair wages’

On Wednesday, Maui Health System employees held a rally along Kaʻahumanu Avenue to draw attention to their call for fair wages.

MHS employees with United Nurses and Health Care Employees of Hawaii are in negotiations for a raise with hospital management. The two parties meet on Thursday, November 17 for their next mediation.

“This is not a strike or an information picket,” organizers said. Instead, they called the rally a “rally” for better pay. The union says a wage increase that recognizes Hawaii’s high cost of living will help recruit and retain essential staff to support work-life balance and quality patient care.

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“MHS employees are members of the Maui community who have made tremendous sacrifices during the pandemic to protect and care for our patients. MHS is Maui’s only hospital system. The community relies on us for everything from routine care to life-saving treatment. Yet it has become increasingly difficult to recruit and retain vital staff. We continue to see workers leaving MHS, often to work in other hospitals or clinics for higher wages,” the union said in a press release.

Maui Health: Recruitment is an ongoing industry issue

Maui Health responded to Maui Now’s request for comment, saying it was pursuing good faith negotiations with the United Nurses Association of California.

“Negotiations with UNAC have gone well and we appreciate our professional and collaborative relationship with our union partners. We are working on a fair and just settlement that will hopefully be resolved soon,” said Maui Health spokesperson Tracy. Dallarda.

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According to Dallarda, the Maui Health team worked on recruiting medical professionals through job fairs, marketing efforts and partnerships with local schools. “Our goal is to hire Maui health care workers to provide care to Maui residents and visitors,” she said.

She, however, called recruiting healthcare workers an “ongoing industry challenge” and pointed to a Honolulu Star-Advertiser article published on Tuesday: “Hawaii healthcare worker shortage worsens.”

“It provides statistical reports on the number of vacancies in healthcare facilities in Hawaiʻi, just as patient counts and the complexity of healthcare needs continue to grow. In fact, this is not just a statewide problem, but a well-documented national challenge,” Dullard said.

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On July 18, 2022, Health and Human Services released a report on state hospital staffing levels across the country in which Hawaiian hospitals were ranked seventh in the nation facing critical staffing shortages, with the hope that the shortage will persist. “It’s no surprise. Even before the pandemic, Hawaii had a significant shortage of medical professionals. The pandemic has only exacerbated this shortage,” she said.

The challenges of the high cost of living

The union, which represents 900 Maui health system employees, referenced a recent Hawaiʻi News Now article saying nurses in Hawaiʻi earn the the lowest salaries in the country when the high cost of living is taken into account.

“Although Hawaiʻi pays the second highest healthcare worker salaries in the nation, the high cost of living further challenges the ability to recruit and retain employees,” Dallarda said. “These complex issues remain a challenge and will require collaboration with colleagues in the healthcare industry and state to provide pathways to solutions.”

Maui Health has pledged to continue to meet and work with union partners “to seriously work toward a fair deal” for healthcare professionals.

Maui and Lānaʻi workers represented by the union include registered nurses, social workers, physical and occupational therapists, speech pathologists, MRI, imaging and mammography technicians, financial counselors and admissions clerks.

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