January 20, 2022

Guthrie ups pay scale

Move affects 6K workers, including those in Cortland

Photo provided by Guthrie Medical Center

Patient service specialists Lorraine Eldridge, left, and Diane Martin work Wednesday at the Guthrie Cortland Medical Center switchboard. They are responsible for all communication throughout the hospital.

Many employees of the Guthrie health group, Cortland County’s largest private employer, will receive a pay raise as the hospital announces a $23 million investment in an employee compensation package affecting nearly 6,000 workers.

As part of an initiative to recruit and retain healthcare workers, the new compensation package includes many improvements, including a new $15 minimum hourly wage.

“This is a step toward making sure that we pay a living wage, and we believe now more than ever that we need to care for our caregivers so that they can continue to care for our patients,” said Dr. Edmund Sabanegh, the president and CEO of Guthrie, in a teleconference late last week.

Healthcare systems face labor shortages nationwide. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare employment has dropped by 450,000, with nursing and residential care facilities accounting for nearly all of the loss, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“We need to make sure that our caregivers understand how important they are,” Sabanegh said. The new $15 minimum hourly wage is a 13.6% jump from the state’s required minimum wage. “At Guthrie, we felt we needed to do more, and are delighted that we are able to do this and we’re very excited about the future together.”

The decision follows a market analysis, and is a step in the organization’s journey to becoming an employer of choice in the region and across the nation, Sabanegh said. The $23 million investment comes directly from the Guthrie Clinic, rather than from donations or grant funding.

Sabanegh added that the change comes as healthcare nationwide faces significant financial pressures.

“We are very privileged that Guthrie is financially strong, and we remain committed to making sure that all caregivers are fairly and equitably compensated,” Sabanegh said.

By initiating the use of the word “caregivers” for all employees at Guthrie, Sabanegh said the goal is to acknowledge all employees are involved in providing care to patients, regardless of their role.

The hospital system has already made wage adjustments in certain career fields, but the pay raise will take place system-wide starting Jan. 1. The investment will impact nearly 6,000 employees across the 12 counties Guthrie serves, including Cortland and Tompkins counties. Employees will receive a letter outlining their new pay rate the week of Jan. 10.

As the cost of living rose, Guthrie Clinic executives recognized a pay raise would be necessary to remain competitive, Sabanegh said.

“I truly believe that we will continue to do what we need to do to make sure we have the best quality caregivers and that they feel meaning and purpose and are well compensated for their work at Guthrie,” Sabanegh said.