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November 8, 2021

Amid health care's labor crisis, Northern Light Health hikes wages at EMMC

As health care providers statewide grapple with personnel shortages, Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor plans to give nearly 2,000 workers a raise.

The 411-bed hospital, which employs 4,200 people, will establish a minimum wage of $17 per hour and make other wage adjustments in an effort to fill job vacancies, according to a news release.

EMMC did not provide details on current wages or the timing of new ones. But the medical center said the minimum hourly wage for certified nursing assistants will move to $19 under the new plan and pay for medical assistants will increase to $20.27 an hour.

The wage hike will cost $6 million in first-year expenses, according to the release.

“We continually evaluate our internal resource needs, the market conditions, and hiring trends. Though we are facing unprecedented financial challenges, we believe it is imperative we invest in the retention of our staff, and continued recruitment of our workforce,” said Rand O’Leary, senior vice president of Northern Light Health and president of Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center.

Northern Light Health, headquartered in Brewer, is the state’s second-largest health care system and employs a total of more than 12,000 people. It includes 10 hospitals, of which EMMC is the largest, serving central, eastern and northern Maine.

The state’s largest health care system, MaineHealth, in August increased the minimum wage throughout the system from $14 an hour to $17. The raise and other pay changes applied to more than 18,000 employees and were estimated to cost $61 million.

Such changes are becoming more common as the pandemic strains health care providers that were already struggling with shortages of key personnel, such as nurses and CNAs.

“This is an investment we believe is warranted and vital to the continued delivery of our mission," O'Leary added. "The pandemic has highlighted how crucial our healthcare workforce is to meeting the needs of our community."

Two weeks ago, MaineHealth said the number of open positions throughout that system has more than doubled during the pandemic — from about 1,200 at the start to nearly 2,900 today. MaineHealth has more than 23,000 employees.

The state's minimum wage is currently $12.15 per hour and is scheduled to increase in January to $12.75 per hour.

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