SEARHC raises minimum wage to $25 an hour for its employees

A minimum wage of $25 an hour for direct-hire employees is being implemented by the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, the Native-run health care organization announced Feb. 7.

The change applies to about 85% of SEARHC’s total workforce and will result in pay increases for about 16% of the organization’s employees, said Kathryn Sweyer, a SEARHC spokesperson, in an interview Feb. 8. She said various assistant positions, clerks, technicians and care attendants are among the employees who were paid less than $25 an hour.

Contractor employees, such as food service workers, are not covered by the new pay scale.

“We considered the market dynamics, including cost of living for Southeast Alaska, as well as insight and feedback from existing employees,” Sweyer said.

The new hourly minimum wage equals $52,000 a year for an employee working 40 hours a week.

The new wages at SEARHC are higher than the minimum hourly wage of $19.39 an hour at Juneau’s Bartlett Regional Hospital, according to Erin Hardin, a spokesperson for the hospital. In an email, she noted the minimum pay is “for positions that require no prior experience and serve as an entry point to a career with the hospital.”

She gave as examples food service work, home attendants and laundry staff.

Health care industry wages have been a concern both nationwide, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic when high demand and low availability of workers meant paying high salaries for traveling nurses and other professionals.

The health care industry is expected to be among the fastest-growing in Southeast Alaska during 2024, according to a report presented last week during the Southeast Conference in Juneau. An update to the annual “Southeast Alaska by the Numbers,” published by Rain Coast Data, states an additional 200 health care jobs in the region are expected.

The region’s 3,540 public and private health care workers comprised 10% of the regional workforce in 2022, according to the report.

“There are too few Alaska health care workers to fill the current demand for services in Alaska, and job vacancies in the industry are increasing,” the report notes. “Southeast Alaska medical facilities must compete statewide and nationally for high demand health care workers. … Southeast Alaska providers have repeatedly adjusted wages up to remain competitive in attracting and retaining workers, resulting in significant overall wage increases.”


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