Beacon nurse "ran ragged" during pandemic frustrated by pay cut

Beacon Health System, the South Bend region's second largest employer, will make significant cuts to nurse pay even as a newly instated hiring freeze has staff expecting a larger workload.

As ABC57 News first reported Thursday, Beacon is planning reduced services, reduced pay, and initiating a hiring freeze, claiming financial challenges. ABC57 has obtained a letter Beacon confirms it sent to staff, outlining some of those cuts.

Memo sent to nursing staff outlining reduced pay rate

As nurses learned this week, and the letter details, Beacon will reduce the pay rate for nurses under a three-year contract by $3 per hour. Nurses under a five-year contract will see their hourly wage drop $7 per hour. These contracts were offered following the height of pandemic restrictions in 2021, which nurses say was presented as a 'thank you' to staff who stuck through the worst days of COVID-19.

"We thought we had a contract that was binding, and now they're changing it up on us," one nurse who asked to remain anonymous told ABC57. "It's a relief now that COVID has gone by the wayside. But I feel like we're going by the wayside with it. And it's sad. It's sad for the community."

Meanwhile, Beacon Health System, which has actively recruited new nurses citing a worker shortage, is implementing a "temporary targeted hiring freeze" according to a statement sent Thursday.

"So not only are we getting a pay cut, we're also having to pick up [work] loads for staff we don't have," a current nurse told ABC57.

The pay cuts will take effect in about 30 days, during the pay period starting May 21 according to the letter sent to employees. Nurses on staff tell ABC57 that contracted nurses must give 90-days' notice if they plan to leave their position, or else face a potential $20,000 penalty.

"I just feel like we were ran ragged [during the pandemic]. Whatever they could get from the nurse, they would take from the nurse. I think our mental health went by the wayside and this contract [when signed] was a huge relief for us," the nurse said. "I think the money should be put where the care is."

Despite the cuts, Beacon Health System told ABC57 in a statement, "We are committed to staying competitive and ahead of market average pay for these clinical roles." In its letter to staff affected by pay cuts, Beacon said practitioners will have the chance to meet with their direct supervisor to review their new pay rate. 

"I would ask [administrators] to come work a day on the floor and see how much [nurses are] worth," the Beacon nurse told ABC57. "They sit in meetings, they get catered lunches, they go golfing with their cohorts, and they're sitting in hundreds of thousands of dollars. We're the ones in the facility doing the work, and we're the ones getting the pay cut."

As part of Beacon's efforts to improve efficiencies, Beacon Medical Group Edwardsburg will close May 30. Beacon Medical Group Pediatric Endocrinology services will end on July 2.

Beacon Health declined ABC57's request for an interview.  

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