UNMH workers protest, speak on working conditions

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — UNM Hospital workers and union representatives spoke out about working conditions during a protest Thursday.

Workers and representatives say conditions are poor and have “only accelerated” since the start of COVID-19 in 2020.

They say a similar protest happened last July but the hospital only hired more travel staff and didn’t give full-time workers their basic needs.

The workers claim travel staff “routinely make 2-3 times” what full-time staff, even though they work alongside each other.

UNMH provided this statement on the protests to KOB 4:

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, healthcare systems across the country are facing significant financial challenges.  As of the end of May, UNM Hospital had an operating margin of negative $27 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 (which includes travel nurses), not filled some vacant positions, and we continue 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.