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Some Mercy Health Muskegon staff upset over lack of promised 'crisis pay'

An employee tells 13 On Your Side some hospital staff who picked up extra shifts and worked extra hours during the pandemic have not received crisis pay as promised.

Hospital staff at Mercy Health Muskegon are speaking out to 13 On Your Side over a lack of crisis pay that was promised to them by the hospital, and about the impact of a staffing shortage at the only hospital in Muskegon County.  

Cyndi Zeanwick and other members of the Service Employees International Union says they are owed crisis pay for taking on extra shifts during the pandemic.

Zeanwick, who works in the respiratory therapy department, says no one in her department has received the crisis pay. Zeanwick says she know of at least one work group at the hospital that did receive additional pay, but those weren't calculated properly.  

Another employee tells 13 On Your Side that many nurses have picked up extra shifts and worked extra hours but have not been compensated and the hospital says its due to an "error" in the time card system.

The hospital said in a statement:

"Any colleague who is eligible for crisis pay will be compensated accordingly. We sincerely appreciate those who continue to go above and beyond for our patients."  

Zeanwick says this is just another issue adding to the nurses plates on top of a staffing shortage and packed emergency rooms. 

"Morale is bad, it is very bad. We are burnt out, we are tired we are short staffed, we are not appreciated, and we are not paid, the culture over there is horrific right now," she said.

This comes on the same day the hospital announced it was dealing with long wait times and a shortage of nurses.

The hospital currently has close to 4,000 employees but there are still 400 positions open, many which are for nurses.

Dr. Justin Grill, chief medical offer at Mercy Health Muskegon said Wednesday hospitals across the country are dealing with the same difficulties when it comes to retaining and attracting new staff.

"Our nurses and our physicians are working as hard as they can maintaining quality of care," Grill said. "And we will do that as rapidly as we can but it's a strain on the health care system right now." 

Both Grill and Mercy Health Muskegon President Gary Allore say extended wait times in the emergency department are due in part to patients being admitted for longer stays.

"As everyone knows this pandemic has caused a significant surge," Allore said.

According to the hospital over the last approximately two-years the average hospital stay increased from about 3.8 days to 4.5 days. That jump means beds that would normally become available more frequently are being used.

And Allore wants community members to know the delays some patients might experience at the emergency department are not the result of the hospital closing the Mercy Health Hackley Hospital.

"We're still using all four floors on the Mercy Campus and we added the ten story tower," Allore said. "We did have the capacity to take on the additional volume that we're seeing but it's very tight."

"Wait times in the emergency room are three, four, six, eight hours. It basically just all boils down to staffing," Zeanwick said. 

RELATED: Long wait times in ER, 400 open positions at Mercy Health Muskegon

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