Arkansas Children’s wage increase sets pace among other healthcare organizations

by Paul Gatling (pgatling@nwabj.com) 190 views 

Little Rock-based healthcare organization Arkansas Children’s, one of the state’s largest healthcare systems with roughly 4,300 workers, made a significant announcement last month: Starting Jan. 1, the minimum wage for its entry-level jobs will go from $10.10 per hour to $14.

How does that compare to other healthcare systems across the region? Little Rock-based Baptist Health, the state’s largest provider with approximately 11,000 employees following its Nov. 1 purchase of Sparks Health System operations in Fort Smith and Van Buren, has a minimum wage of $9 across its system, according to Cathy Dickinson, vice president of human resources.

Beth Wright, vice president of marketing and business development of Northwest Health in Springdale, did not disclose the provider’s minimum wage, but offered the following statement: “Our minimum wage is significantly above the state-mandated minimum wage. We strive to provide a wage and benefit package that is commensurate with a caregiver’s experience, background and education in order to provide extraordinary care to our community.”

A spokesman for Mercy also declined to cite a specific minimum wage for its Arkansas employees but offered this statement: “Mercy pays at or above federal/state minimum wages for all positions. Co-workers in lower-paid positions are also supported with a variety of special benefits, such as medical premium assistance, tuition assistance, a retirement plan subsidy and more.”

The lowest classified position for the approximately 10,300 employees at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) starts at $8.50 per hour, according to a spokesman, who also pointed out that as a state institution, its pay scales are set by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.

Fayetteville-based Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville declined to provide its starting minimum wage, but provided a statement on the subject:

“Washington Regional is a community-owned nonprofit health system that is committed to maintaining competitive wages for its employees — all of whom live in Northwest Arkansas. Ultimately, however, an applicant’s relevant experience and training are the principal determinants to their starting wage at WRMC.”

Arkansas voters on Nov. 6 overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative to increase the state’s minimum wage of $8.50 an hour to $11 an hour by 2021.

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