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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Wednesday, Apr. 7, 2021 1 year ago

Medical group bumps up hourly wages, costing at least $120K

Reliance Medical Centers was founded in 2017.

The tightening job market in Florida, especially in health care and hospitality, has some companies making bold moves to both retain current employees and hire new ones. Consider Reliance Medical Centers: a concierge-style, senior-focused primary health care practice, with locations in Lakeland and Winter Haven, Reliance recently announced it will raise the pay of all hourly employees to at least $16 an hour.

There are three significant factors behind the raise, which will cost the practice about $120,000 to implement in 2021, says Reliance co-CEO Roberto Martinez. A primary one is to reward employees for their pandemic dedication. Also, in Polk County, where average income rates are in the lower-third among Florida counties, the raise signals that the practice is serious about being an employer of choice in the area. (Per capital personal income in Polk County was $36,649 in 2019, according to Federal Reserve data. That’s the lowest among nine counties on the west coast of the state, and lower than some of Polk’s border-counties, including Lake and Sumter.)

A third reason, Martinez says, is in the face of the national conversation on minimum and living wages, the raise is the “right thing to do.” Reliance did about $30 million in revenue in 2020 and has a payroll of about 120 people. Employees getting a raise range from front desk employees and greeters to concierge drivers to direct-care employees. Some of the raises will be $4 an hour while others will be less than $1. Employees who already earn around $16 an hour will also be in line for raises.

“We’ve been wanting to do this really since we opened,” Martinez tells Coffee Talk, going back to 2017, when he and a friend from high school in the Dominican Republic, Dr. Carlos Romero, opened Reliance. The partners said they wanted to be profitable first — a mark the organization hit in the second quarter last year.  

Martinez has worked on the business side of health care, including overseeing an insurance unit at Jackson Health System in Miami. When he and Romero reconnected to launch Reliance, the goal was to enter a mid-size market and build a practice around personal touch and preventive care. Some four years later Reliance now connects each patient with a personal medical concierge and care focus team headed by a primary care physician. The practice has additional services, including a Brain Health Program in partnership with the University of South Florida; an onsite pharmacy, complimentary shuttles and membership to the Reliance Wellness Club.

Martinez says the success of the practice in growing its brand and reputation in Polk County is based not only on the model, but the employees. He says and he Romero have spoken often about that, like when they made a decision not to lay off anyone at the onset of the pandemic. Says Martinez: “We looked at each other and said, ‘this is where we have to step up.’”





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