Rural hospitals struggling to match rising pay among nonindustry competitors

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U.S. hospitals, especially those in rural areas, are struggling to match employee pay with large retailers such as Walmart, Bloomberg reported Jan. 7. 

Although it is well-documented that hospitals are facing shortages of clinical professionals, it has also become harder for them to hire and retain food service and environmental services workers, according to the report.  

To fill these positions, hospitals must compete on wages with other industries while also persuading workers that it is safe to prepare food or clean rooms inside hospitals amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Community Hospital, a 25-bed critical access hospital in McCook, Neb., said it competes for workers with a local Walmart store, where wages are rising.

"What used to be an $8 job now is $15," said Troy Bruntz, CEO of Community Hospital. "That's the only way we get people to come to work."

Mr. Bruntz said he monitors the wages at Walmart and other large employers in the region to try to remain competitive. However, he said he has been trying to recruit a new ultrasound technician for at least six months and has not received any applications. 

Mike Hansen, CEO of Columbus (Neb.) Community Hospital, told Bloomberg the hourly entry-level wages in the state have been going up for two years and now range from $15-$18. This is a significant jump from less than $8 an hour.

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