“Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” -Romans 13:7
In the wake of our recent crisis, who deserves our honor more than the nurses who stand at the front lines?
Overworked. Unappreciated. They're fighting an uphill battle against an invisible foe, and there isn’t a man, woman, or child who doesn't know its name.
What started as a bad beer joke has turned into something quite serious. Since February 28th, there have been 8503 Coronavirus-related deaths in the United States alone. Most states have issued ‘stay-at-home directives.’ A $2 trillion stimulus package has been passed to supplement the economy. The President has discussed hazard pay for those in the direct line-of-fire of this virus. Everyone seems to be taking the virus seriously now.
Everyone but Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia.
While President Trump and the rest of the nation hail our doctors and nurses as ‘front-line warriors,’ Meadows Regional has taken a different stance.
To put it into perspective, imagine this…
Your son enlisted in the Army two years ago. The United States has just suffered an attack from an invading army, and every corner of our world has been hit. They’re killing us mercilessly, and it’s only going to get worse. The entire nation is clamoring for our troops to save us. The President has made it clear the military would get what it needed. Yet, just as your son is about to step into the line-of-fire, Congress decides that now is the moment to cut his pay.
If this happened, would you believe that Congress valued your son’s life? Would you think they had anyone’s interest but their own in mind?
Imagine the rage you’d feel. Imagine the injustice of it.
Now stop imagining. What I just described is exactly what’s happening at Meadows Regional Medical Center.
Last week, Meadows CEO James Alan Kent sent out an email informing employees that their pay would be cut. Mr. Kent argues that a drop in elective surgeries has decreased revenue, and pay cuts are needed to supplement those losses. In normal times, these measures should be used as a last resort. During a medical crisis, cutting someone’s pay while at the same time dramatically increasing their risk, is not only unethical, it’s repugnant.
It’s the job equivalent of price gouging. Nurses are a vital resource, much like gasoline or water in any other emergency. When COVID-19 hits this area hard, nurses will be required to be in contact with, and care for, infected patients. And just like hiking up the prices of gasoline and water during an emergency is wrong, and in some cases illegal, cutting the pay of these vital employees should be considered the same.
At a time when employers have taken out loans to pay their employees, companies have donated their resources, the government has extended loans to struggling businesses, and the President is suggesting hazard pay for nurses, why is Meadows Regional Medical Center cutting pay to their essential, front-line employees?
Why aren’t they applying for a loan?
Could it be they don’t realize that a medical facility would have priority during a medical crisis? Or could it be they’re more concerned about a pending business deal than they are about their employees?
For those who don’t know, Meadows Regional Medical Center was set to join HCA Healthcare last month; however, due to COVID-19, the deal has been postponed.
Is Mr. Kent cutting employee pay in-lieu-of getting a loan so he can protect this deal? Or is the hospital struggling so desperately that it needs HCA? No. That is not the case, according to Mr. Kent, who in an interview with WTOC last year stated that negotiations were not an attempt to keep the doors open, but a strategy for the future.
Why are our nurses—the men and women who are literally putting themselves and their families in danger every time they step foot at work—the sacrificial lambs that Mr. Kent is throwing to the wolves?
No one knows, but Mr. Kent. Maybe he didn’t consider the sacrifice already being made by his employees. Perhaps he was unaware of other options. We hope that Mr. Kent will see the error in what he’s done and make the appropriate changes.
In the meantime, The Baxley Informer has started a GoFundMe for the nurses of Meadows Regional Medical Center. We understand that a lot of people are out of work, but if you are one of the blessed few who can afford it, please give to these men and women. They’re putting themselves and their families at risk to protect ours. Now is the time to show them our gratitude. If you'd like to contribute, you can find our GoFundMe link on our Facebook page, or you can click here gf.me/u/xvd2m9
Research Nurse Unions: They may not be able to stop what’s happening now, but they can protect you from further abuse. Click the link below for more information. Also, if you’re interested in getting a union started at your local hospital, hospice, etc., but you’re afraid to speak up, send your contact info to The Baxley Informer. We will help organize all who contact us. We promise your privacy will be protected.
A copy of Mr. Kent's email to his staff detailing these pay cuts can be seen below: