Workers at Rock County’s troubled nursing home will get pay raises as part of a package of changes the Rock County Board approved Thursday night.
The package includes signing bonuses for nursing staff at Rock Haven, which has been plagued by staff shortages.
The shortages have led to excessive overtime and hiring of costly fill-in staff for years, board members said.
The wage hikes will put nursing staff above the average pay levels for similar jobs in the county, County Administrator Josh Smith told the board.
Public comment on the issue included a letter signed by 82 Rock Haven staff members who said the changes will make the facility more attractive to potential employees.
“We need more staff, and we need them now,” they wrote. “... We are tired, we are frustrated, and we are burned out.”
None of the changes directly addressed the ongoing controversy over the requirement that staff members get the COVID-19 vaccination or face layoff.
The resolution also calls for hiring a consultant to investigate work environment, climate and culture at Rock Haven, including “potential violations” of rules related to management-staff interactions.
Board member Russ Podzilni proposed postponing the pay hikes and other measures until the consultant had submitted a report.
Podzilni said the county should hear the report before deciding what to do about the problem.
Board member Bob Yeomans noted the plan comes four weeks before a new Rock Haven administrator begins her job. Yeomans said it would be better to wait until the new administrator has a chance to view the situation and make recommendations.
Doug Wilde, who proposed the resolution with fellow board member Brian Knudson, said the staff shortages are too urgent to wait, and he said the pay raises and other incentives were meant to address the longstanding worker shortages, not the issues that the consultant would investigate.
Podzilni’s amendment failed on a 25-3 vote.
The vote on the resolution was 26-2, with Podzilni and Mary Mawhinney voting “no.”
The changes include wage hikes around $1 an hour for certified nursing assistants, activity therapy assistants, licensed practical nurses and registered nurses.
CNAs, LPNs and RNs who take jobs at Rock Haven through the end of the year will receive bonuses of $500 plus $500 at six months of employment and $1,000 at 12 months.
Current staff who have been employed less than six months and/or 12 months will receive the same amount of retention incentives when they reach those milestones.
Rock Haven staff who refer a CNA, LPN or RN who accepts employment will earn incentives at those same milestones of $500, $500 and $1,000.
CNAs, LPNs, activity therapy assistants, environmental service workers and food-service staff would earn time-and-a-half when they volunteer to pick up shifts, a benefit RNs already receive.
CNAs and LPNs would receive a shift differential increase, from $1 to $2, for working evening or night shifts, the amount RNs already receive on those shifts.
The lowest-paid certified nursing assistant will now receive $15.32 an hour, a $1.09 increase, according to an administration memo.
The county would partner with technical colleges by paying the schooling costs for CNAs who agree to take Rock Haven jobs.
The plan would cost the county $297,539 through the end of the year.
Costs in 2022 would depend on whether certain programs continue next year, but base wage adjustments, shift differential and the 12-month payment on retention incentives are estimated to cost $303,387 in 2022.
In other business, the board hired Venture Architects of Milwaukee for $3.08 million for architectural and engineering services for phase one of the sheriff’s office renovation project slated for completion this year.