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St. Peter's to raise hourly minimum wage to $15

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St. Peter's Health hospital in Helena.

St. Peter's Health in Helena. 

St. Peter’s Health officials said Thursday they would raise their minimum wage to $15 per hour as part of an effort to attract and retain critical staff.

The raises are to be implemented between now and April and will impact more than 400 employees, including staff who will receive equity increases due to rising pay scales or for longer tenure in the organization.

St. Peter’s Health said in a news release that these adjustments represent $500,000 of a more than $3 million investment this year in employee compensation, over and above the standard 2% annual increase it offers every employee.

Officials said that since March the organization has benchmarked hundreds of positions and increased wages for staff, nurses and providers. By April of next year, this $3 million investment in compensation will benefit more than 1,400 St. Peter’s employees. 

Montana's minimum wage is $8.75 an hour. The starting pay for lowest minimum wage scale at St. Peter's is $11.88, a hospital spokeswoman said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic that has hit hospitals hard, officials have said the challenge of treating coronavirus patients has been compounded by staff shortages. St. Peter's now has 230 positions posted. 

St. Peter’s officials said keeping pace with rising wages in the market and offering  attractive benefits are critical given staffing shortages and competition for talent. They said this is part of a redesign of the organization’s compensation and benefits program following a restructuring of the human resources department earlier this year. 

The decision to invest in the local workforce is the right long-term strategy, but comes at a challenging time financially for St. Peter’s, officials said in their news release.

"As a not-for-profit community health system, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the organization’s bottom line given more COVID-19-related expenses and lost revenue from canceling surgical procedures and scaling back services," St. Peter's officials said.

St. Peter’s typically budgets for at least a 4% operating margin but only achieved 2.7% for the past fiscal year ending May 31, officials said.

“We’re fortunate to have a strong financial foundation with the ability to weather these storms and stay focused on our mission,” St. Peter’s Health Chief People and Communications Officer Andrea Groom said in the news release. “When we support, empower and invest in our people, we know in turn they provide the very best care for our patients.”

St. Peter’s Health said it has more than 1,700 providers, nurses, administrative and support staff, and other clinicians. The community health system is Helena’s largest private employer and pays $127 million in total salaries and $31 million in employee benefits. According to a June 2021 report published by the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research, St. Peter’s represents 3.5% of Lewis and Clark County’s total earnings.

 Anyone interested in applying for a job at St. Peter’s should visit sphealth.org/careers

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