To the editor,  

I’m writing in response to Gina Bishop’s letter to the editor on Nov. 8 regarding the current negotiations between Providence Kodiak and the Kodiak branch of Alaska Medical Employees Association (AMEA).  Negotiations have been underway for nearly a year with little to no progress in coming to an agreement on a suitable labor contract.  

Ms. Bishop’s letter stated “Employees would accrue paid-time off (PTO) hours each pay period, and these hours could be used for sick leave, vacation, to take care of a sick child, travel for medical appointments, or any other life circumstance where an employee needs to care for themselves or others.” What Ms. Bishop does not articulate in her letter is that the PTO hours would decrease from 27 to 25 days per year and paid sick leave would disappear completely. The loss of two PTO days and eight sick days would be a loss of 10 days from annual paid leave. 

Yes, you read that correctly. Hospital employees would no longer have paid sick leave.  

The Kodiak AMEA board presented to Providence and interested employees on the dangers of “presenteeism” or going to work sick and the impact it has on increased patients’ illness rates. Much research has been done on the impact of decreased sick leave for health care workers and the outcomes are exactly what you might imagine. Sick employees=sicker patients. Rates of illness are increased as infections are spread.  

Providence’s current proposal discontinues employee sick leave and proposes the utilization of a short term disability alternative. This option is cumbersome and not applicable for short term illnesses and would assist only a small fraction of employees. The Kodiak AMEA negotiation team ran the numbers (many times) and proposed reasonable alternatives for Providence to consider.  Providence discontinued negotiations on more than one occasion. 

As anyone knows, it’s very challenging to take care of anyone else if you are sick. The Kodiak AMEA union is committed to ensuring Providence Kodiak remains an excellent health care facility. A contract with a semi-reasonable amount of leave time will ensure that staff is strong and able to take the best care of you and your loved ones if or when you need medical care.  

Zoya Herrnsteen

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