A group of Nantucket Cottage Hospital staff members rallied at the Four Corners intersection yesterday calling for “Pandemic Pay” bonuses from the state legislature, and seeking the support of the hospital.
The rally was organized by the 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East union, which represents nearly 100 Nantucket Cottage Hospital staff members who work as patient services representatives, medical assistants, in housekeeping, and in other support staff positions. The union wants the state legislature to allocate funds Massachusetts has received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for premium pay bonuses to NCH staff, and is requesting that the hospital publicly endorse its request.
“We’re not asking the hospital for money, we’re just asking them to join us, to advocate for us, to be on the team with us, and reach out to Governor Baker and the legislature and advocate for us,” said Janice Plourde, who works in the hospital’s financial clearance department. “We’re not asking them to dip into their own pockets, just be on the team with us.”
The state legislatures’s Joint Committee on Ways and Means is scheduled to meet Tuesday, September 21 at 11 a.m. to discuss the allocation of ARPA funds for such purposes.
Nantucket Cottage Hospital public information manager James Lanza issued the following statement on behalf of the hospital following the conclusion of the rally:
“Throughout the pandemic our frontline workers have proven to be invaluable assets guaranteeing the health and safety of our Nantucket community. We have consistently worked to ensure our workers and their families have the financial support they needed throughout this pandemic, this is something we’ve prioritized in the past, and will continue to prioritize looking ahead. The distribution of funds from the ARP is currently in the hands of the state legislature, and they will determine how we’re able to use those appropriated resources to help ensure our community has consistent, year-round access to high quality care.”
Nantucket State Senator Julian Cyr endorsed the union’s call for pandemic pay, and expressed optimism that the state legislature would carve out some of the federal funding for pandemic pay.
“Since the pandemic began, healthcare workers have been working under enormous pressure to care of the rest of us, and they have risen to meet the mission when the stakes have been most high,” Cyr said. “Fortunately, one-time ‘premium pay’ for healthcare workers is among the allowable expenses for pandemic recovery under the American Rescue Plan Act. Premium pay for healthcare workers is a pivotal opportunity to not only say thank you but take real action.”