Utah hospital ensures stability for employees during COVID-19

St. Mark’s Hospital knows how to take care of its employees during the coronavirus pandemic.

Story and photos by MIKEN MCGILL

Health care providers at St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City are being supported in ways they couldn’t imagine during COVID-19. While other hospitals in the United States were laying off health care workers, this company was ensuring that each employee would be taken care of.

St. Mark’s Hospital, located on 1200 E. 3900 South, is owned by HCA Healthcare Co. out of Nashville, Tennessee. The mission statement of the company is, “Above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of human life.” This goes for not only the patients of the hospital, but also their own employees.

Visitors see this engraved wall when walking into the hospital.

There are many areas that St. Mark’s covers for their employees, including “emotional, mental, and spiritual support,” says Kelly Brimhall, vice president of human resources. “From our 24/7 hotline to our Employee Assistance program, St. Mark’s Hospital provides free mental health care. In addition, we also employ a full-time Spiritual Care department, who also provide constant support in all of those areas.”

He goes on to say, “Any employee can use the Employee Assistance Program if they are experiencing mental health issues, work-related exhaustion, or stress in their personal lives. The program offers a hotline and also availability to line up to a psychiatrist, social worker or other behavioral health care worker. They can also attend a virtually or in-person counseling if needed.”

Spiritual Care offers onsite support for health care providers who need a break from their job. It is provided Monday through Friday at 11 a.m. in the chapel. Spiritual Care colleagues offer a calm, safe place to talk or meditate. The team also traveled to each department to give out uplifting notes to let the employees know they are appreciated.

At the national level, HCA is committed to ensure no jobs were lost during the coronavirus pandemic from the start in March and going forth to today. “In fact, we paid our colleagues 70% of their wage to stay home when there were no patients to care for. Our top executives willingly took 30% pay cuts in order to ensure no colleagues were lost and all employees were able to continue to provide for their loved ones,” Brimhall says.

The hospital offered quarantine pay for all employees. “This pay was for colleagues that tested positive for COVID-19 and included full pay for the 14-day quarantine period for the days they were scheduled prior to contracting the virus,” says Trent Pulley, manager of PBX/Unified Police/Screeners.

“A new opportunity came through called ‘pandemic pay,’ which employees could take when hours were slim and offered to them that pay period in place of paid time off.” He excitedly says, “Having this offered aid all health care providers in knowing they will have income.”

St. Mark’s employees brought their concerns to upper management regarding accessibility to basic groceries during these challenging times. Employees were finding it hard to get to a grocery store that would be open after their shifts. Pamela Martinez, senior center office specialist, says, “Part of the cafeteria was turned into a makeshift store where employees could purchase items such as milk, bread, cheese, vegetables, toilet paper, etc.” It was very much appreciated by the employees through the whole hospital.

The hospital also saw a lot of outside support from the community. Martinez says restaurants provided about 300 meals a day, bakeries offered desserts, florists delivered flower arrangements for the hospital and for employees to take home, and more than 100 companies donated care packages.

“The Volunteer Department at St. Mark’s has a program through Intermountain Therapy Animals, in which animals visit patients,” Martinez says. “When COVID-19 struck, the animals were not allowed to come into the hospital, so ITA and the department collaborated to bring the animals together outside on the patio a few times during the pandemic for employees, patients, and their families to enjoy the animal presence.”

Hospital sign when turning into the main entrance.

Trent Pully, the manager of PBX/Unified Police/Screeners, says, “As far as physical health, St. Mark’s offers access to the hospital gym as well as incentives to participate in Spring into Fitness and Fall into Fitness. This is a program that allows employees semiannually to participate in a competition individually and as a team. Points are rewarded through the hospital’s point system and can be exchanged for gift cards, electronics, and other items.”

Many employees have said that the hospital has taken great care of them during hard times. Hernan Garcia Cervantes, radiology concierge, says, “If I had to compare it to other hospitals, I know St. Mark’s did more.” Cervantes adds, “From what I have seen on the news from other hospitals with healthcare workers asking for more PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), more staff, union protesting. I believe they did a lot for us.”

Kelly Brimhall, vice president of human resources, says, “For me personally, it’s not as much about me versus our colleagues and their challenges. My goal as an HR professional is to ensure all obstacles are removed from the path of my colleagues to ensure they can focus their efforts on caring for our patients. It was also a great blessing to be able to provide the vaccination to our colleagues. Hope has been restored.”