VC Notes Archive Office of the Vice Chancellor
Friday, April 10, 2015

Four Questions

Today I will depart from my normal format and touch on several questions that a number of you have asked.  So I identified four questions or comments that I thought were timely and raised important issues.  I've asked for help from members of our senior staff who are in the best position to provide some answers.

Just as a reminder, I do personally read all your questions and comments.  There have been a lot of them!  Although I can't answer them individually, I pass many of them along to the appropriate leaders for further consideration and your comments do inform my thinking about what general topics to cover.  I will add that I'm truly grateful for your positive responses to this new communication tool and for the insight it's giving me into what you are thinking and feeling. 

So let's move on to the questions and comments.

While the library performs its job well, more needs to be done that will allow researchers access to a greater number of journals online. Currently, the availability of journals, and the years covered by the journals we do have access to online, is extremely limited. While we can obtain articles via interlibrary loan, this often takes days, stretching sometimes to a week or more. Yet the most frequent use of online access is to download or view an article in real-time (immediately) as we write our own manuscripts and/or research grants. 

Susan Clark, director of the Rowland Medical Library, responds:

First let me say, thank you for the comment.  In the days when journals were available only in print, the library purchased and retained volumes on the shelves permanently. However, in the mid-1990s, libraries began shifting from print to receiving journals in an electronic format. Electronic access began at the point of subscription and did not extend to prior years as publishers were focusing on the current material. When publishers did begin to digitize older content, they put a sometimes hefty price on that content, despite the fact that a library may already have purchased and still retained the print copy. 

Because of budgets and pricing issues, our library has not purchased digital versions of these "back files".  The breadth of new content, especially as new areas of research began to emerge, seemed more important than depth of earlier content. Interlibrary loan provides fast access, in general, to older digital content, and the library is currently investigating a more robust interlibrary loan delivery system. 

The library appreciates input regarding electronic resources important to the needs of our faculty, researchers and students. Each year we add subscriptions to titles at the request of users, depending on the cost of the resource and the library's budget. Please feel free to use the suggestion box on the blue bar on the library webpage to submit ideas for improvement.

Will UMMC ever consider telework arrangements and/or flexible scheduling for employees whose job duties would allow such an arrangement?

Michael Estes, chief human resources officer, responds:

UMMC currently supports the use of flexible work schedules across many units and departments campus wide.  Department management, in concert with Human Resources guidance and support, has the ability to flex employee work schedules so long as doing so does not adversely impact patient care or ongoing operational needs and is compliant with governing regulations at both the state and federal level.  

Telecommuting, while related in many aspects to flexible schedules, is a very different issue for all organizations to manage.  While there are some roles across campus where assigned work effort can reasonably be accomplished in a defined telecommuting framework, most of our roles don't readily fit this job model. To further complicate matters, organizations that have implemented telecommuting policies and programs have to also ensure that a multitude of related issues/requirements such as OSHA, Worker's Compensation, Fair Labor Standards Act, safety, proper ergonomics, etc., are properly addressed.  Even with these challenges, Human Resources has initiated a study to determine the feasibility of selected use of a telecommuting program and will bring recommendations forward to senior leadership later this year for consideration.  In any case, as with flexible scheduling, any decision to allow telecommuting would be made by management and not by the individual employee.  

I was wondering when UMMC will start renovating some of the Courthouses.  The one in Byram is in desperate need and a lot of the machines do not work. Just wondering and thanks for listening. 

Jonathan Wilson, chief administrative officer, answers:

A great deal of behind-the-scenes work has been done since the first of the year when UMMC took on operations of the Courthouse locations. UMMC is partnering with Power Wellness, a national leader in wellness and fitness centers. We are in the process of bringing best practices from around the country to be incorporated in our operational model to create medically integrated wellness centers that are more than traditional fitness centers.  

Just this week, following several months of in-depth assessment, the Power Wellness leadership team was here at UMMC to present their detailed operational and financial plan to transition the Courthouse to this new model.  Among other things, the plan calls for substantial capital investment to improve facilities and replace worn out equipment.  Each location has its own unique profile and some have greater needs than others.  

As these changes begin occurring later this year, we'll roll out a new UMMC identity to reflect the enhanced mission of these centers.  All the changes we would like to make won't happen overnight, but we're pleased with the progress we're making and can't wait for our vision of a clinically integrated wellness center to be fully realized.      

All Classes Cancelled for Thursday, March 5, due to weather.  (You say to use) extreme caution in your travels during severe weather.  My comment is everyone doesn't live in the same area.  I live in northwest Madison County where it was constantly raining ice and snow but I had to use my personal time.  This should be a person by person judgment call. 

Since I've often been on the 5 a.m. conference calls deciding what to do about the bad weather, I'll take this one.  

When severe weather strikes, we want our employees and students to be safe.  That is our top priority.  We recognize that many members of our workforce commute in from distant locations and that the weather in Canton or Vicksburg can be far different from conditions in Jackson.  That's why we leave it to you to use your best judgment to ensure your personal safety.  

But we also have to recognize that we operate the state's only quaternary care center and we never close.  So the only options that are realistically on the table in terms of schedule change are to cancel or delay classes and to curtail library hours, since these activities do not involve direct patient care.  

There was a time when organizations like ours designated "essential" and "nonessential" personnel for the purposes of reporting for work during bad weather.  That is no longer viable.  In fact, the worse the weather, the more we need all hands on deck to backfill for staff who are not able to be here because they can't make it in or because the schools have closed and they have children to look after.  

So the answer is, yes, if the conditions are truly dangerous, don't put your life and limb at risk.  But we do require that employees who miss work because of severe weather cover that time with personal leave.  Even though it may not be your choice to miss work, the fact is you are not at the Medical Center doing your assigned duties.  Meanwhile, we often have to pay overtime to staff who stay on to provide care to patients or deal with grounds or maintenance issues.  We believe this approach is fair and reasonable, and is the best way to manage a situation that is trying for all of us.  

Thank goodness extreme weather doesn't happen that often in Mississippi.  But when it does, I appreciate that each of you wants to be here, even though that may not always be possible.  That's a big part of who we are, and what keeps us ever moving toward A Healthier Mississippi. 


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