At HCA Healthcare, the world’s largest for-profit hospital system, volunteers include aspiring medical providers who work in patient rooms, in labs, and in wound care units, according to the company’s magazine.
Over centuries, leaning on volunteers in medicine has become so embedded in hospital culture that studies show they yield meaningful cost savings and can improve patient satisfaction — seemingly a win-win for hospital systems and the public.
Except, there’s a catch.
The U.S. health system benefits from potentially more than $5 billion in free volunteer labor annually, a KHN analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Independent Sector found. Yet some labor experts argue that using hospital volunteers, particularly at for-profit institutions, provides an opportunity for facilities to run afoul of federal rules, create exploitative arrangements, and deprive employees of paid work amid a larger fight for fair wages.
The federal government instructs that any person performing a task of “consequential economic benefit” for a for-profit entity is entitled to wages and overtime pay. That means profit-generating businesses, like banks and grocery stores, must pay for labor. A Chick-fil-A franchise in North Carolina was recently found guilty of violating minimum wage laws after paying people in meal vouchers instead of wages to direct traffic, according to a Department of Labor citation.
Author(s): Lauren Sausser
Publication Date: 10 Jan 2023
Publication Site: Kaiser Health News