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Lieutenant Governor comes to Marquette for Healthcare Worker Appreciation meeting

Lieutenant Governor
Nicole Walton
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist III speaks to UPHS-Marquette nurses at an appreciation event

MARQUETTE, MI— On a cold, blustery day perfect for an internal heat-generating cross-country ski marathon, Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist on Saturday made a stop at an office in Marquette’s Chippewa Square.

He was at the MGH RN Staff Council headquarters to meet with and show appreciation for frontline healthcare workers from UPHS-Marquette, but very quickly it became apparent appreciation for nurses was hard to come by at the hospital.

Stephanie DePetro is Staff Council President and Vice President of the Michigan Nurses Association. Words catching in her throat and tears in her eyes, DePetro pointed out nurses in the room who consistently work beyond what most would consider normal human capacity because the hospital refuses to implement better pay to attract more nurses and ease the situation.

She said federal CARES Act money given to the hospital for staff went into the pockets of UP Health System owner Apollo.

“What have they done to retain our staff here in the middle of a pandemic? Other hospitals such as Sparrow, Beaumont, U of M, all gave retention bonuses to their staff to keep them because they say, ‘We value you; we need you.’ I had a meeting with their attorney and I said, ‘What about a retention bonus?’ And I’m quoting their attorney: ‘LifePoint is not interested in retaining the current staff.’”

DePetro said RNs are changing linens and cleaning floors because there’s just no one else to do it.

Katlyn Lafrinere is a senior cardiovascular technologist at UPS-Marquette and President of MAST—Marquette Ancillary Staff and Technologists. She said the people who couldn’t make the meeting were respiratory therapists, because there was no one else to cover their shifts.

“That’s the first face that you see when you come in the ER and are struggling to breathe due to COVID or really anything else, and there’s not even enough of them to even show up here physically today because every single one that’s available is at that hospital. And the only ones that are available are two or one on a single shift, which is absolutely unsafe.”

The lieutenant governor stood and listened to each nurse who had something to say, interjecting a question here and there. He said he’s consistently blown away by health care professionals like the ones with UPHS-Marquette who got into that career because they truly care about people and want them to be healthy. It’s inspiring and energizing, he said, but it’s also upsetting when he hears about the horrible circumstances most of them are facing at work.

“They have the right to be respected at work. They have the right to be supported at work and in the community so that they can do what they want to do, what they’re there to do—they’re there to serve. And so it really motivates me as a public servant to find ways to support them, to support their patients, by making sure that this infrastructure to support public health is actually working and that it’s accountable.”

Gilchrist said the Governor’s Office has tried to work to make sure hospitals had resources with the intention of using them to support their staff. When he hears it’s not happening consistently, he said it’s something they need to investigate.

In the meantime, nurses say they’ll continue to provide the best care they possibly can.

Gilchrist and nurses
Nicole Walton