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ECMC offers hazard pay to nurses, others engaged in Covid-19 fight

After initially declining to do so, Erie County Medical Center has begun providing hazard pay to some employees to compensate them for the greater risks they've taken on during the Covid-19 outbreak.

This month, nurses and other clinical staff working directly in ECMC's Covid-19 units will earn what the hospital calls premium pay of $10 per hour above their regular rate, spokesman Peter Cutler said.

Other nurses and related clinical staff who work with Covid-19 patients on an occasional basis will earn an extra $6 per hour or a lump sum payment, Cutler said. Cleaners also received a lump sum payment this month to reward them for their efforts in keeping staff and patients safe, he said.

ECMC also provided these employees a lump sum to reflect the work they did during March and April at the start of the pandemic.

Cutler said the payments were negotiated with the New York State Nurses Association and other unions that represent ECMC employees.

He did not provide the dollar value of the lump sum payments but said about half of ECMC's 3,900 employees are eligible for some form of premium pay.

The decision to join Kaleida Health, Catholic Health and other providers in offering hazard pay comes as ECMC faces steep financial losses driven by the coronavirus pandemic.

Like other hospitals, ECMC has lost millions of dollars from elective surgeries canceled over the past two months and has had to boost spending on supplies to respond to the Covid-19 outbreak. The hospital also lost out on between $5 million and $6 million in federal aid it had expected to receive.

ECMC on Friday said it would lay off about 70 employees and furlough other workers across the hospital to cut costs.

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