Kalamazoo

Big pay raises attract health care applicants to Family Health Center in Kalamazoo

Unlike most of the help wanted signs dotted around town, the “fine print” on Family Health Center’s new billboard promises jobs that start at $21 an hour or more — not that possibly wind up there someday.

The nonprofit health clinic serving citizens of Kalamazoo County has implemented a sweeping change in employee compensation that puts Family Health Center on the leading edge of pay practices in health care.

The move is designed to enhance Family Health Center’s ability to recruit and retain the very best health care workers, says Denise Crawford, President and CEO. 

It’s working.

Since boosting pay rates in November, “we have hired at least 13 new staff in various positions and continue to recruit heavily,” Crawford says.

Family Health Center received a significant increase in job applications as a result of the market salary increases, she says, with salaries and wages based on a comprehensive market analysis of health care providers at local, state, and national levels.
 
Denise Crawford, FHC President and CEOThe move also rewards the center’s current employees, who continue to work on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Nearly all current employees got a bump in pay effective Nov. 1.

A history of excellence 

“Family Health Center is rooted in a culture of excellence,” Crawford says. “Our outstanding team drives that culture, bringing the very best care to our patients. It’s vital that we compensate our staff in a way that reflects their expertise and our appreciation for them.”

Fully staffed, Family Health Center employs some 287 individuals.  
The provider team of doctors, nurse practitioners, physicians assistants, dentists, dental hygienists, and behavioral health therapists make up approximately 15 percent of the staff, Crawford says. The remainder are support staff.

In 2020, Family Health Center served 50,000 individual patients in more than 160,000 visits.  Numbers are still being finalized for 2021.

That’s an explosion in growth from when Crawford took over the leadership of the health center in 2009 — when about 15,000 patients were receiving healthcare services.  

Since then the center has grown, first with a $10.3 million expansion of the Family Health Center’s main offices at 117 W. Paterson Street, completed in July 2012.

That expansion was the result of a $9.3 million federal Affordable Care Act grant that the health center received in October 2010, and $1 million in matching funds from the Family Health Center.

The facility pre-expansion had 34 exam rooms and maxed out at 15,000 patients. The current facility has 104 exam rooms and the capacity to treat 40,000 individuals.

Family Health Center on Alcott.Next, Family Health Center built its Alcott campus with an additional 24 medical exam rooms and also hired a chief dental officer. It unveiled its largest dental health operation at Alcott, with more than 25 dental suites and operating rooms.

Currently the Family Health Center Moses L. Walker and Alcott campuses have open-access walk-in hours Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on a first come, first served basis.

Phone lines open Monday through Friday at 7:45 a.m. to schedule appointments; walk-in scheduling begins at 7:30 a.m. on a first come, first served basis, with appointments beginning at 8 a.m.

Urgent care is provided at the Moses L. Walker Campus on Paterson, Monday through Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 pm. and at the Alcott Campus Monday through Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. for immediate health issues only (not for routine or chronic care, regular medication refills or paperwork).

Combatting staffing shortages with well-deserved investment  

Like other healthcare providers across the country, Family Health Center has experienced “significant” staffing shortages in recent months, Crawford says.

It was to address these shortages that the study looked at local, state and national healthcare salary trend data available within the industry. Family Health Center then adjusted salaries in November to be on the leading edge of key practices within health care.
  
Moses L. Walker Building at Family Health Center on Paterson.“The (wage) increases were a significant investment within the organization,” she says. “All salaries were increased 10 to 50 percent to maintain market competitiveness and display our value and commitment to patients.”

That investment is well deserved and just what’s needed to help the nonprofit keep pace with community healthcare needs as it continues to respond to the pandemic, says photojournalist Jacqueline M. Luttrell, a Family Health Center board member since 2015.
 
“I cannot say enough wonderful things about the staff in this organization,” Luttrell says. “They are all amazing.”
 
Luttrell says she is thankful the nonprofit is an important part of Kalamazoo. 

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the organization has remained open to serve 50,000 patients in Kalamazoo County,” Luttrell says. “Since April 2020, the center has provided testing and vaccinations as they became available to patients with drive-through sites.

“At the same time, our providers continued to see patients in person, while adding telehealth visits,” Luttrell says. “Additional efforts to provide vaccinations to the community were made with our Mobile Health Unit in outlying areas and within the city.”

“Serving an underserved population remains challenging,” Crawford says. “The work, coupled with a pandemic, becomes equally challenging. Underserved patients have additional challenges with access, transportation, trust and more. Additionally, living and social circumstances do not always allow for social distancing and quarantining as needed.”

 

Read more articles by Rosemary Parker.

Rosemary Parker has worked as a writer and editor for more than 40 years, most of that time in Southwest Michigan.