WATERTOWN — Though Samaritan Health implemented a wage increase last month to fill over 400 vacancies, it is now contending not only with a general staffing shortage but with prospective employees withdrawing over the mandated COVID-19 vaccine.
Following a significant increase in vacancies, Samaritan Health has been actively recruiting and announced last month it would adopt a $15 minimum wage — a 19% increase from the previous $12.61 per hour.
Having seen a large increase in open positions since the end of 2020, Samaritan Health in August had 452 open positions for full-time, part-time and casual jobs — food and environmental services, registration, billing, office support, certified nursing assistants, home health aides and licensed practical nurses.
According to Leslie M. DiStefano, director of communication and public relations, Samaritan usually hovers around 175 to 200 job openings at any given time.
The health system now has 434 job openings.
“At a time where we were so pleased to report that we raised our minimum wage and we were seeing increased job acceptance offers and things of that nature, now the mandate has really slowed some of that for us, where people are no longer accepting or they are rescinding their offers,” Ms. DiStefano said. “So it’s an interesting domino effect that I’m not sure we were even thinking about.”
Ms. DiStefano previously said that Samaritan is trying to make it as easy as possible for people to apply and be interviewed quickly.
As for the continuing recruitment efforts, Ms. DiStefano said Samaritan is being upfront with potential employees about the mandate, making it clear they’d need to be vaccinated.
“It tends to be right now mostly entry level, which we’ve had a lot of openings for positions,” Ms. DiStefano said. “So those are your frontline staff as far as environmental services, patient registration, CNAs, NAs, unit helpers, things of that nature, which are very vital positions. And at this point, that’s where we’re seeing a lot of holes.”
With the state mandate for health care workers to receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 27, many have decided to leave the offers they’d previously accepted in favor of positions elsewhere.
“Obviously, the overall minimum wage increase has helped us, but this is just something that you have to try even harder now,” Ms. DiStefano said. “You have to really recruit more quickly, get back to people, go to fairs and do different things and advertise so that we can create a wider group of people to apply for our jobs.”