I am writing this in response to two letters recently published in your newspaper regarding the transparency of WhidbeyHealth Medical Center in several important areas.
As an employee of the hospital and a resident of Whidbey Island, I find that the commissioners and administrators are anything but transparent when dealing with the employees and community members. There is a disturbing lack of communication and an inconsistent portrayal of what is really going on in our medical facilities. This is further evident in the recent decision to drop the PEBB insurance plan without giving retirees sufficient information and notice.
I am an RN with nearly 35 years of acute care experience. I have been employed by WhidbeyHealth for five years. I am privy to the day-to-day happenings, the employee conversations, the overt lack of communication between management/administration and hospital staff members and the basic indifference the management seems to have for the heart and soul of this hospital. Unfortunately, Whidbey Island has a great number of residents who are struggling financially, indigent and/or homeless. These people would benefit immensely if they had a month’s supply of drug samples just to get them through. There are people who may require a trial of a new medication to determine if it is effective for their medical condition. Purchasing a 30-day prescription for something that doesn’t work could be a burden for many patients. Yes, there is some work involved in monitoring and documenting the distribution of these samples but as Roosevelt said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…” We are in the business of serving, healing and helping those in our community. Why are we doing away with a practice that does just that? I beg to differ with Dr. Langrock’s statement that free drug samples “drive up the cost of health care for all with increased premiums.” I believe that there are many other factors that are responsible for that.
In all due respect, Monday morning board meetings are not well attended by employees or the citizens of Whidbey Island. Most employees report to work between 7 and 8 a.m. If employees are working Monday mornings, they are working. We are not permitted to leave the floor or office, take an hour off during our eight- or 12-hour shift and just sit in on the meeting. Most citizens are either preparing for their workday or getting their children and families off to school or work, and do not have the time to stop by and attend the meetings. The scheduled timing of these meetings is for the convenience of the board members, medical providers and the hospital administrators. Taxpayer and employee schedules are obviously not a priority. The addition of single-patient rooms was definitely a long overdue modernization of our hospital. It has given patients the privacy and comfort they deserve while they are ill, injured or in need of procedures.
There are many deficiencies that still exist especially in the area of basic needs and courteous consideration for staff members. First, and foremost in my mind, is the civility of fundamental communication. We, as employees, are usually the last to know about anything. I have suggested, on more than one occasion, the institution of quarterly employee forums. This would give the administration a scheduled time to inform and educate the staff on upcoming events, future plans and important information regarding WhidbeyHealth. It would also provide the employees with an opportunity to ask questions and make suggestions. This would be a true “team-based approach” to provide the best service and care to our community while working collaboratively with one another.
Secondly, employees deserve to have some type of staff lounge where one can put up his or her feet for a few minutes during breaks and lunch periods. Right now the nurses only have access to a locker room and a “fish bowl” type eating room where they can be seen by any co-worker, patient or visitor who may stroll by. The only other resting spot is the public dining room. I believe that this should be a priority for those who work so hard and diligently to care for our patients.
Lastly, there is, what I believe to be, very poor organization that has resulted in a lack of sufficient workspace. We have up to four social workers working in one very small office at any given time. This forces them to share desks and computers. There can be four people talking on the phone at one time which results in a distracting noise level and the potential for HIPAA violations. They have no personal space to store their personal belongings and little, if any, storage space for their reference materials. We have care managers sharing desks and working along side coders who require quiet so that they can concentrate on their work. Care managers are on the phones constantly and need to communicate with other staff frequently. Coders and care managers should not be room mates…their job descriptions are not compatible.
I believe that in the five years that I have worked at Whidbey General Hospital, now WhidbeyHealth Medical Center, I have witnessed a huge decrease in employee morale and community trust.
I moved to this island in order to live my life out in a beautiful and peaceful place. I am confident that with hard work, communication and mutual respect we can transform our hospital into a place where employees want to work, that patients want to utilize and the community will support.