Inflatable rocket used to criticize Washington hospital exec salaries

Nurses and other healthcare workers plan to unveil an inflatable rocket at two Washington State hospitals to raise awareness about executive pay at Renton, Wash.-based Providence St. Joseph Health.

The 24-foot rocket, which says "skyrocketing Providence executive pay," will be at Madison Street and Broadway in Seattle, near Swedish Medical Center's First Hill Campus, from 5:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Jan. 9 and at 13th Street and Oakes Avenue, near Providence Regional Medical Center Everett (Wash.), during the same period Jan. 10. Both hospitals are part of Providence.

Robin Wyss, secretary treasurer for Service Employees International Union Healthcare 1199NW, told Becker's the goal is to note the disconnect between the high compensation of Providence executives and the staffing and pay issues that nurses and healthcare workers face.  

Total compensation for Providence's 14 highest-paid executives climbed from $26 million in 2016 to $39.6 million in 2017, according to the union, which cites IRS tax documents.  

At the same time, nurses and other healthcare workers are overwhelmed with too many patients to take care of at one time, said Ms. Wyss.

"Patients aren't getting the compassionate, quality, personalized care they deserve, and front-line workers are struggling to provide for their families," she added.

The inflatable rocket comes as social worker case managers and counselors at Swedish are negotiating a first contract and 230 hospice and home health workers at Providence Hospice and Home Care of Snohomish County continue negotiating on a first contract.

Mary Beth Lowell, a spokesperson for Swedish, told Becker's the hospital is looking forward to productive negotiations with the union "as we work together on a contract that provides a competitive pay and benefits package for our caregivers, something both we and the union want to achieve."

"We don't comment on theatrical actions of this sort that SEIU commonly employs, and we encourage the union to instead focus their efforts at the bargaining table," she added.

Ms. Lowell said Swedish does not expect the inflatable rocket to affect patient access to the hospital or patient care.

Mary Beth Walker, a spokesperson for Providence Hospice and Home Care of Snohomish County, expressed similar sentiments. 

"While Providence Regional Medical Center Everett is a neutral third party and not involved in any negotiations with SEIU 1199NW, the hospital does not expect the demonstration to impact patient care or access," she said in a statement.

"On behalf of Providence Hospice and Home Care of Snohomish County, our goal is to continue negotiating in good faith with SEIU 1199 NW on a first contract that provides a competitive pay and benefits package for our home health and hospice caregivers. This is something both we and the union want to achieve. We don’t comment on theatrical stunts of this sort that SEIU 1199NW commonly employs, and we encourage the union to instead focus their efforts at the bargaining table."

Editor's note: This article was updated Jan. 9.

 

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