I hope you are having a good holiday break and have had the opportunity to recharge your batteries. Although we are open for business 24/7, 365 days a year, even during Christmas and New Year's, the slower pace does provide the opportunity to catch our breath and reflect more deeply on our plans, priorities and the people around us.
Today I'll answer some of your recent questions. I enjoy receiving feedback from you. If you don't see your question or comment below, you can be assured that I have passed it along to senior administrators for review and possible action.
Now on to your questions.
Q: I would like to request that the barricade arms at the pay booth connected to the paid parking lot next to the School of Health Related Professions (SHRP) remain open on the weekends so that students can park there. Currently, students are parking in front of the SHRP building or in the faculty parking lot (including the disabled parking spaces). Sometimes they will park two or three deep or beside the curb. If the booth is not going to be staffed anyway on the weekend, why not let the arms remain open for student convenience?
A: Our administrators in Physical Facilities tell me the lot you refer to, which is Visitor Parking, Lot D, remains gated on evenings, weekends and holidays to prevent non-UMMC personnel from using the lot and as a matter of general security. However, there is badge access to the lot after hours and students and staff may have their badges programmed to open the gates after hours. Email your request for parking access after hours, weekends and UMMC holidays to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Since the new company has taken over the cafeteria, the service, at least at night, has continually gotten worse. Tonight, employees were told that the only options were grilled cheese or turkey burgers. We consistently ask for menu items and are told "we're out," without even a hint of apology or concern that this has become a theme. As a previous restaurant manager, I would have been fired long ago if I failed to maintain simple par levels of the food that is on the menu and had to deny service to customers because of my inability to do my job. Also, if any of my employees or I ever treated any guest with the disrespect shown by the employees of the cafeteria, there would be a complete overhaul of management and staff. I can only assume that this has not happened because the cafeteria has a monopoly on the dining availability in the hospital from 11 to 3. I understand that the cafeteria management is under contract and not directly under UMMC management. Please take this information into consideration when renewing the contract.
A: I referred your question to Greg Richmond, director of food services, and he was aware of some of the issues you describe. Although not offered as an excuse, transition in food procurement personnel and stocking practices has at times resulted in running out of menu items, particularly at night. The food service staff are working through those issues. A number of changes that will take effect next Wednesday, Jan. 3, should also improve the dining experience at night. The made-to-order salad bar and an expanded pizza station with calzones and pizza by the slice will be available for all meal periods seven days a week. Also, a number of menu items that are slated for the day shift will continue to be available late at night, including combo specials for the grill and action station items. And on the day after Christmas, two offerings of soup were extended to all meal periods. As for the friendliness of the staff, Greg said all staff members completed customer service training in November, but he will continue to monitor this for additional training/intervention. My takeaway from Greg is that he appreciates receiving feedback like this and is committed to having a first-class food service operation.
Q: I know that UMMC has several contracts with housekeeping, laundry and food service, but it would be nice if these workers felt a part of UMMC. Some UMMC employees are rude to people in these departments and feel that they don't count, but they do because we need them to function in the hospital, just like the nurses and doctors. It's not all staff, but I have seen some nurses be rude with the services in the hospital, and I know if that were me, I would feel some type of way. Everyone should be treated with respect, no matter what department they are in.
A: I couldn't agree with you more. As was implied in the previous answer, everybody counts, everybody matters, and everybody has a contribution to make, regardless of role. We could not run UMMC without these vital services. I would only add that this kind of behavior - looking down on people for some reason or another - is in complete opposition to our values as an organization. I can say with confidence that while a few people may not respect and appreciate our contracted staff, the vast majority of us don't feel that way.
Q: Is there or has there been a policy in effect that UMMC employees get healthy/wellness services for screening purposes by UMMC providers in the UMMC facility essentially free? I know there is an employee discount but not free service.
A: If you are a member of the state health plan, current benefits include a number of services that support member wellness, depending on your age. If I'm not mistaken, those services include up to two wellness visits with your doctor each year. These are covered benefits and do not include a charge to the member (that is, they are provided at 100 percent of allowable charges). The services must be rendered by an in-network provider, which includes those at UMMC. For more information about these wellness benefits I encourage you to visit http://knowyourbenefits.dfa.ms.gov/wellness-preventive-coverage/. In addition, I hope you have noticed that we are making a major commitment to improving the health status of our UMMC workforce. You will see even more opportunities to take advantage of health screenings, guided exercise sessions, weight loss programs and educational offerings in the year ahead.
Q: Are there any plans to invest in technology to make texting a secure way to communicate among health-care providers? In today's world where everyone has a smartphone, it seems patient care could be greatly enhanced if we were able to communicate about our patients quickly via text. Thanks so much for taking this into consideration!
A: DIS leaders tell me they have been working for some time evaluating and acquiring a unified communication software product that will include a secure texting platform that integrates with some of our other collaborative tools. This will be a single system that will integrate certain types of hands-free voice communication, secure texting via an app on a mobile phone, and alarm management from certain patient-care equipment - all communicating collaboratively without requiring multiple devices to handle each function. The procurement process for this system has been especially complex and challenging, but is nearing completion. Once that happens, DIS will begin installation and integration. As you know, information technology plays a huge role in our work and is a challenge to stay current with (surely the understatement of the year!). DIS continues to evaluate and standardize system selection in the hope that our employees and patients will have an easy time adopting and using our software products.
To paraphrase a certain porcine cartoon character, “that's all folks” for 2016. I look forward to welcoming 2017 with you and continuing our inspiring journey toward A Healthier Mississippi.