Walking in their moccasins

Madison County Commissioners, nursing home administration discuss reduced hazard pay

During the Madison County Commissioners’ Meeting on Jan. 12, extending hazard pay for nursing home employees was approved through the end of January.

State and federal health and human services funding was used to add $2.50 per hour to nursing home facility employees’ paychecks, but as the funding ran out, the hazard pay is set to expire at the end of the month. Hazard pay was made available to employees in April 2020.

Two Administrators in Training (AITs), Allison Veland and Gail Nelson, attended the Jan. 12 meeting to discuss with the commissioners how to best roll back the pay increase. It was decided the $2.50 per hour would decrease to $1.50 and be extended through the month, ceasing completely by Feb. 1.

“We were aware that that was a short-term thing, reimbursed by the state, so we knew that it would eventually go away and I’m just very appreciative…the commissioners approved to just decrease it at this point,” Nelson, with Tobacco Roots Mountain Care Center in Sheridan, said. She wished the funds did not have to go away, “but we can’t control the state funding,” she said.

The coronavirus outbreak at Madison Valley Manor (MVM) began shortly after this decision was made.

“I had hoped the pandemic was kind of behind us because the vaccine was becoming available,” Commissioner Ron Nye said. The plan now is to wait and see what a new stimulus bill from the Biden Administration may offer to the county before moving forward with any other funding search.

“It’s hard to stand up in front of your team and tell them those payments aren’t going to be there,” Veland, with MVM, said.

“The people that work here, since this has started, we’ve been sacrificing our social everything. We’ve been guiding people to do the right thing outside the facility, and these [MVM residents] are the reasons why,” Veland said.

“We tend to be thanked and chastised at the same time. There isn’t money out there for everybody,” Commissioner Jim Hart, who went to MVM on Friday to explain the hazard pay reduction to staff, said. He also got to experience a cross-section of the staff ’s routine regarding PPE and safety precautions.

“I don’t know how they do it every day,” he said. “Within 15 minutes, you’re just sweating your tail off.”

“We as administrators will continue to advocate with the commissioners, but I support them [the commissioners],” Madison County Nursing Home Administrator Steve McNeece said.

He ‘doesn’t walk in their moccasins,’ as he put it.

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65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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