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VIDEO: Abercrombie Argues
with Maui Nurses Over Pay

Updated 05:19 PM HST, May 17, 2011
Posted 01:09 PM HST, May 16, 2011

By David Kvasnicka

Nurses from Maui Memorial Medical Center took the opportunity to argue their case over pay with Gov. Abercrombie at the MACC yesterday.

The “Conversation with the Governor” event at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center was moderated by Tom Rodriguez-Blackburn and offered residents the opportunity to submit questions.

While all other Hawaii Government Employee Association (HGEA) members have agreed to cuts to pay and benefits, HGEA nurses have not. When Abercrombie approached the audience, Maui nurses came forward to put questions to the governor. The exchange appeared heated at times. This video, shot by Elaine Bridge, captured the exchange.

Barbara Larrabee Duarte, a part-time ER nurse from Maui Memorial Medical Center, cites several problems with the pay cut.

“We have a revolving door issue with staffing [at MMMC],” Duarte told Maui Now via phone. “We’re losing nurses who can get better pay elsewhere, and are left with inexperienced nurses.”

Currently, the starting pay for an entry-level nurse at MMMC is $30/hour, which rises to $35/hour after two years, according to Duarte. However, Duarte herself, who claims to have 24 years of experience, and a Masters in Nursing, makes only $37/hour.

governor abercrombie macc may 15 conversation

Gov. Abercrombie responds to the nurses' pay issue at the MACC, May 15 2011. Image courtesy of Elaine Bridge.

“Nurses at private hospitals on Oahu make around $55/hour.”

As a result, MMMC hires “traveler” nurses to fill staffing gaps, which costs the system $100/hour after pay and expenses. Duarte cites this as government waste, when the money could be better spent on keeping resident nurses. There are around 55 such traveler nurses at any one time.

She says nurses working for the state are asking for “comparable wages” to what nurses are making elsewhere. When asked where the money for the pay rises would come from, Duarte indicated that it was an issue of priorities and that the government was “robbing Peter to pay Paul” in diverting money from public employees to favored government programs. However, Duarte could not name any such government program specifically.

The governor has so far not responded to requests for comment on this story. However, in his specific reply to the question on nurses’ pay at the May 15 talk at the MACC,

Abercrombie said that the major private hospitals on Oahu “just went bankrupt.” He also said that every other public employee voluntarily (by vote) agreed to pay 10%

extra for benefits and take a 5% pay cut (video below).

“A whole lot of people want a comparable wage to other people everywhere…[but] we’re in an economic crisis here,” said Abercrombie.

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  • Haaheo O Hawaii

    Abercrombie is a scrub!

  • Guest

    State nurses:

    Ignore Neil, I drop cones for a living and I love you guys. It amazes me that the governor of this state will happily pay folks from the mainland three times as much money to do the same job; and give the public employees a lecture on fiscal responsibly at the same time. This goes beyond blaming the public workers, it is actually punishing them. And it is also costing us all money.

    no shame!

  • Dave Carr

    Neil sounds like Scott Walker. "The money isn’t there" and "we all have to share the pain" are neoliberal mantras that come out when austerity measures are used to slash social services to redirect money upward to the rich. I stand with the nurses, and public and private sector workers facing down these attacks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Francine-Yagi/1518879255 Francine Yagi

    The Governor needs to walk in the shoes of a nurse for a week! With what the nurses encounter on a daily basis and the hazards that their job entails I give them credit. They don’t deserve a pay cut. I am not a nurse but my parents had been in Maui Memorial enough times that I saw how late they go home after their shift is suppose to be over and all the things they have to do which includes handling abusive language(and this is not from people in extreme pain but they(the patients) are a pain)! Also some patients can get physical.
    I work in the government sector and I would not begrudge nurses ,police and fire to not have to have the 5% paycut! They all have different hazards that they encounter!