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Healthcare workers picket EvergreenHealth over staffing, wages and CEO's raise

EvergreenHealth worker Sokha Hammond and young Kai Hour participate in a picket of the hospital on Thursday over staffing and the CEO
EvergreenHealth worker Sokha Hammond and young Kai Hour participate in a picket of the hospital on Thursday over staffing and the CEO's pay raise.
— image credit: Matt Phelps, Kirkland Reporter

Healthcare workers from EvergreenHealth Medical Center are protesting a pay raise for their hospital's CEO, claiming more workers are needed.

A picket and rally was held Thursday outside of the center in Kirkland led by SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, hoping to raise support and gain attention from the hospital. EvergreenHealth is part of King County Public Hospital District No. 2, which covers Krikland, Redmond, Bothell, Kenmore and Sammaish. According to the hospital's website, the facility receives about $14.9 million from tax payers each year.

SEIU Healthcare 1199NW represents nursing assistants and lab techs, among other support staff at the medical facility.

The workers main source of contention is that the CEO, Rob Malte, was given an 18 percent pay raise, bringing his total compensation to almost $1 million. Meanwhile, they say they have only been given a one percent raise.

Workers like Faith Simango also said that there simply isn't enough staff to care for the patients.

"It is hard for us to help them," she said during the picket. "We believe patients come first before anyone else."

Camie Aitmessaoud, a nursing assistant who has worked at the hospital for eight years, said the high ratio of patients per worker means they often can't take breaks and many patients have to wait longer times before a worker can attend to them.

"It's exhausting, it's tiring," she said. "It affects our patients."

Linnae Riesen, a representative from SEIU, said that they have attempted to bring their concerns to the hospital but have not gotten anywhere. She added that in addition to more workers they are pushing for a better training fund, which she said would allow workers to go back to school to receive their nursing certification and fill open positions.

“We’re the experts on what our patients need, yet the hospital is denying us the staffing we tell them will improve care for our patients, and investments that would help us recruit and retain the best staff. Our patients deserve better and Evergreen does not have its priorities in the right place,” said Kim Steinbaugh, a cook at EvergreenHealth, in a release to the media.

Kay Taylor, vice president of communications for EvergreenHealth, replied in an email that the hospital has been attempting to find common ground with the union and declined to comment, as she said they are still trying to come to an agreement. In response to complaints about the CEO's pay raise, she stated that Malte's compensation is comparative to other similar healthcare organizations.

This is the second picket at Evergreen Health in three years, the first occurring in 2011.

Malte was named CEO to the hospital in 2010.

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