When you or a loved one require specialized healthcare services, you justifiably rely on the professionalism and ability of the person providing those services. And that goes far beyond the physician or nurse – think about the pharmacy technician who dispenses your prescription, the nursing home aide who is responsible for taking care of frail and elderly residents, mental health workers, or any other skilled support role in the healthcare field. These are typically the individuals who are most involved with direct patient or resident care and support. The workers who are charged with protecting and promoting health and life. It is difficult to imagine more critical work.
You might think that such work would be well compensated. Sadly, it is not. A recent Massachusetts Health Policy Commission report revealed that, for many healthcare workers, particularly those working directly with patients in supporting roles, their compensation fell short of a living wage and was roughly comparable to those of waitstaff or cashiers. Specifically, when compared with the single adult minimum living wage of $21.88 per hour, Certified Nursing Assistant wages were $3 lower, and personal care aides a full $5, or about 25%, below that figure.
Low pay for healthcare workers is not isolated to a single state. It is a well-recognized issue that goes back some years. Ironically, while other sectors experienced significant wage growth during the initial years of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers’ salaries lagged behind – this despite a decline in available workers and an increase in demand, not to mention the increased health risk posed to frontline workers.
While nurses have successfully staged public walkouts over pay and working conditions, less focus has been placed on healthcare support workers. Now, these workers are speaking out over pay that barely exceeds the minimum wage. And while hospitals may agree in principle, actual pay improvements often lag due to cited budget constraints. However, these are not unskilled positions. Many require specialized training and certification along with continuing education. In addition, their working conditions are, by their critical nature, very stressful and demanding.
Given this unfortunate reality, hospitals and care facilities continue to struggle with staffing, resulting in higher workloads and more inexperienced hires. After all, in a tight labor market, it is not difficult to find a less stressful job at equivalent, or higher pay. Those healthcare workers who do stay are often juggling their positions with a second or even third job to offset their low compensation. And when an underpaid healthcare worker is stressed and tired, it translates into a greater chance for error and substandard patient care. Until there are significant changes in how frontline healthcare workers are compensated, the accompanying risks for those they care for will only continue. If you or someone you care for has been injured as a result of substandard medical care or negligence, contact our medical malpractice attorneys to discuss your situation.