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Facing staffing crisis, workers plan to picket outside long-term care facility in Muskegon

A sign outside McAuley Rehabilitation and Wellness in Muskegon.
Dustin Dwyer
Michigan Radio
McAuley Rehabilitation and Wellness in Muskegon

Dawn Rose had just come off a 12-hour overnight shift working as a certified nurse’s aide at McAuley Rehabilitation and Wellness, a long-term care facility in Muskegon run by Trinity Health.

The night before, she was among three certified nurse assistants in her unit, plus two nurses, she said. One member of the team had called in sick. The five staff who remained, she said, were in charge of caring for 54 patients.

“Makes it problematic to make sure everybody’s getting adequate care,” said Rose, who said she’s worked at the facility for seven years.

Rose said she didn’t have specific examples of resident care being impacted by the understaffing, but an inspection by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services last year found numerous deficiencies affecting residents and concluded McAuley “failed to prevent neglect as a result of widespread system failures stemming from the lack of staff.”

Now Rose, who serves on the bargaining unit for the union representing nearly 60 members of the staff at McAuley is calling for Trinity to guarantee higher wages and better benefits to help solve the staffing crisis.

“We don’t have them. We need them. How are you going to bring them in?” Rose said. “You've got to pay better.

"You gotta pay better, You gotta give decent raises. You’ve got to provide a good environment.”
Dawn Rose, certified nursing assistant McAuley Rehabilitation and Wellness

Rose was at a rally Monday morning at the office of her union, SEIU Healthcare Michigan, which has been in negotiations with Trinity Health for a new contract to cover the nearly 60 workers at McAuley. Last week, the union announced its members plan to picket outside the facility, attributing the decision to an ongoing staffing crisis and what the union called “unfair labor practices.”

A spokesperson for Trinity Health Senior Communities, the division of Trinity that oversees McAuley, said that the company had negotiated in “good faith” to reach a deal with the union, but talks had broken down.

“We have provided 14 proposals over the course of 10 negotiation sessions,” the spokesperson, Christine Looby, wrote in an emailed statement to Michigan Radio. “Unfortunately, on Thursday, March 2, the Union walked away from our best and final offer, which offered a generous wage increase.”

SEIU Healthcare Michigan said that offer was worth less than what 38% of staff currently make.

“I’m hoping they come back to the table,” said Rose. “I don’t like to go to extremes but they need to understand that we need a fair contract, and to give us respect as health care workers.”

If a contract deal isn’t reached, SEIU Healthcare Michigan said its members will picket outside McAuley Rehabilitation and Wellness next Monday, March 13, from 1-4 p.m.

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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