logo On more than one occasion I’ve sung the praises of Phoebe Ministries, a multi-facility, not-for-profit health care organization founded in 1904 and affiliated with the United Church of Christ.

Their Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF) rank among the finest in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. In fact, I write these words from their Allentown community, where I’m spending the next 2-4 weeks in rehab, following an acute care hospital admission.

As a long-term care consumer advocate, I appreciate the personal care I’ve received from the staff at Phoebe: care that is consistent and reliable. I’m also grateful for the little “extras” I find at Phoebe and nowhere else.

Yet, in a larger sense, this level of care is not surprising. If you pay your employees a respectable wage, they will usually rise to meet and exceed expectations. It’s not a complicated algorithm; just Human Behavior 101.

Health care employees at Phoebe are some of the best paid in the region.

And it shows.

It’s not unusual to find employees with 20 and 30 year tenure; as opposed to the average “revolving-door” you find at most senior living communities, where  six-months of aggravation is often the limit for most employees.

And having lived the last 13 years in assisted living facilities, I’m surprised the employees last even that long.

OK, back to Phoebe . . .

The organization, in the middle of a multi $million face-lift, recently released a letter to its unionized employees (Service Employee International Union) stating: “In an effort to address the financial challenges from significant decreases in government reimbursement and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act:

It is critical for us to make adjustments in wages and benefits to bring them in line with market standards. This means that your pay and benefits are comparable to your positions at similar nursing homes in our area. The proposal concerning wage concessions is specific to categories of workers who are paid significantly above market standards for that specific position.”

I spoke with an employee who has 14 years under her belt as a Certified Nursing Assistant: “I love working at Phoebe, but they’re going to cut my current wage of $19.20/hr. to $17.00/hr.” she said. They’re asking me to choose between loyalty and my family.”

The overriding question for me, as a journalist and health care consumer, is this:

Has management warmed also warmed up to the concept of wage concessions?

I’m guessing, dear reader, you and I already know the answer.