Hackensack Meridian Health told employees in July that it planned to close its child care center by the end of the year, citing financial difficulties and staffing issues.
This week, the Edison, New Jersey-based nonprofit health care system said it would change its policy and keep its facilities open after protests from employees and union leaders.
“After receiving thoughtful input from our team members and community, Hackensack Meridian Health is committed to finding solutions that maintain onsite child care. We continue to evaluate all options with this in mind, and as we explore the possibilities, we anticipate that all viable solutions may include adjustments to our current operations.” Hackensack Meridian spokesperson Mary Jo Leighton said in a statement.
Debbie White, president of Health Professionals and Allied Employs, a union organization in New Jersey, said the health system shouldn’t make it difficult for employees to get to work amid the staffing crisis. She hopes it will be the final decision for Hackensack her Meridian. Unions represent workers from multiple hospitals in the system.
Investing in child care centers is a huge financial responsibility for health systems, and many are unwilling or unable to do so. They generally do not get any financial benefit from running the center. The system addresses staff recruitment and retention issues, and the Center can help with both.
Some health systems have opened day care centers to accommodate family and scheduling conflicts during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of early 2021, about 30% of registered nurses had access to at least partial reimbursement benefits to cover childcare costs, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Other systems have been in service for years.
Roper St. Francis Healthcare in Charleston, South Carolina opened its learning center 35 years ago. Roper St. Francis spokesman Andy Lyons said the center was at capacity with his 110 children, with a longer waiting list than before the pandemic.
About three-quarters of the children in our learning centers have a parent who provides direct care to the patient. A recent internal survey found that 91% of her parents who use the center’s services keep working because of it. As COVID-19 surges, children are spending more time in institutions.
Ballad Health, based in Johnson City, Tennessee, will invest $37 million to build 11 childcare centers over the next few years. The center sees it as a means to compete in a tight labor market. According to Tony Keck, Ballad’s chief innovation officer, the expansion will increase Ballad’s available childcare slots to 2,000, half of which will be for employees and the rest will include high-risk families. It’s for the larger community.
Keck said the health system’s board of directors supported the plan because, despite the cost, it would have to compete to attract non-contract workers and it was tied to Ballad’s educational outreach efforts. .
“We cannot compete with some cities that can keep raising wages, so we understand that we have to compete differently and this is what really differentiates us. I believe it is one thing that can be done, said Keck.