No raises expected for UNM Hospital employees

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There will be no raises this year for the people that run one of New Mexico’s largest hospitals.

“Care has gone down and our morale has gone down,” said Gilberta Miera, the License and Technical president of Union 1199. “People are very frustrated. You’re getting penalized if you stay.”

Miera has been a registered nurse for UNMH for 30 years. She said local health care workers are feeling downtrodden and loyal employees make far less than contract workers.

However, hospital officials said it’s all a consequence of the bigger picture.

The RSV surge, the pandemic, the increase in demand for care, and still waiting on federal funds has the hospital in a $25 million hole entering the next fiscal year.

UNMH reps said hospital leadership, as of April 1, is taking pay cuts – whereas the pay for frontline workers is holding steady.

“Everybody is ready to strike, calling me, saying, ‘Can we strike?'” Miera said.

Miera said the law prevents them from striking, but said they expect picketing because thousands of workers are unhappy.

“I mean, it’s health care, it’s a right to have good health care, and we’re not at that place,” Miera said.

Chris Ramirez, spokesperson for the UNM Health System, shared the following statement:

We strongly value our workforce and appreciate our team’s commitment to keeping New Mexicans safe and healthy.  We are grateful for their dedication through three years of battling COVID, with sustained high patient volumes and unpredictable waves of acute and widespread community respiratory surges.  

As the nation comes out of the public health emergency, health care systems across the country are facing significant financial challenges.  As of the end of April, UNM Hospital had an operating margin of negative $25 million.

We are working hard to continue to provide the health care our state and communities need through these challenges and have put our best efforts into coming up with a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24).  

We have implemented a variety of initiatives to try to maintain our workforce through this process, including a decrease in pay for UNM Hospital leadership that went into effect April 1, 2023 and will continue throughout (FY24).  Our FY24 budget does not include any pay decreases for frontline staff, but we are not able to include pay increases, given our current financial situation.  Additionally, UNM Hospital leadership has reduced contract labor costs, not filled some vacant positions, and continues to closely manage overtime costs.   

We know this is not news anyone wants to hear.  As a public health system, we have an important and mandatory obligation to our community to be good stewards of public dollars and to continue delivering critical health care for New Mexicans.  While these decisions are always difficult, UNM Hospital leaders strongly believe these moves are vital to honoring those important commitments.