OhioHealth workers set to get a raise

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More than 9,600 OhioHealth employees will see a bump in their paychecks starting in November.

The nonprofit, Columbus-based health system, which has 30,000 employees and 12 hospitals, is raising its minimum wage from $12 to $15 per hour in what it says is an attempt to pay employees fairly.

“One thing that’s really important to us at OhioHealth is we believe our culture is really our secret sauce, and our culture is shaped by our associates,” said Johnni Beckel, chief human resources officer. “If we take care of our associates, they’ll be able to take care of patients.”

The change comes on the heels of Nationwide Children’s Hospital announcing in April that it was raising its minimum wage, taking about one third of its employees from $10 to $15 an hour. Mount Carmel Health System increased its minimum wage to $12 per hour last year and plans to raise it to $15 in the next few years, said spokeswoman Samantha Irons.

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More than 4,200 of OhioHealth employees earn less than $15 an hour. The remaining employees who will see a raise already make just above $15 an hour and will get more to keep their pay in line with the pay scale, Beckel said, with their raise amounts varying.

OhioHealth began working toward offering a $15 minimum wage in 2016, Beckel said, and raised it to $11 per hour that year. Last year, they took the minimum to $12 per hour. The system defines a fair wage as something that is competitive with the outside market and equitable internally, though, the “external market rate for some jobs is just insufficient,” Beckel said.

The minimum wage in Ohio is $8.55 per hour, and it’s $7.25 per hour federally.

The increase will move the employers above the poverty level, which was earnings of $27,780 for a family of three in 2018, said Hannah Halbert, a researcher at Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal research group that advocates for a $15 state minimum wage.

“That’s going to make a substantial difference,” she said. “It gets them over that first hurdle. … They’re going to feel the positive effects of having that extra cushion to get bills paid, to decide how to spend their money.”

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Workers most affected include those who work directly with patients, Beckel said, such as those who keep patients’ rooms clean, escort patients around the hospital and those who assist nurses care for patients daily — also the areas with the highest turnover.

Brooke Smathers, 21, of Grove City, works as a sterile processing technician, checking used surgical equipment for cleanliness before it is sent to be sterilized. Smathers, also a student at Columbus State Community College, is excited about the raise, as she thinks it will help her pay for school and move out of her father’s house to a place of her own.

“It’ll definitely help out a lot,” said Smathers, who is moving from working full-time to part-time when she starts school later this month, and is comforted by the prospect of making more to ease that transition.

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“I feel like it took off some of the stress,” she said. “It’s not going to be as tight now … I feel lucky to work here.”

Halbert said the raise should help with turnover and recruitment, and Beckel said it should make the company attract and retain the best talent and impact employee’s well-being so they can better serve patients. Beckel said the health system expects to save about $5 million in turnover costs, and the investment to raise wages costs about $20 million a year.

“If people feel like they have a good job, your wage is appropriate and your employer respects you, it’s going to take a lot to get you to leave that job,” Halbert said.

Being able to pay people so they are above the poverty level makes Beckel proud, she said.

“If you can imagine what a $3 per hour raise means for somebody, it’s huge,” she said. “We want them to be able to thrive here.”

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@DanaeKing