Friday, March 31, 2017

five questions march 2017

Published in VC's Notes on March 31, 2017

Five Questions

Good morning, Happy Friday and Happy Third Monthly Payday!

And while I'm at it, let me express a belated Happy Doctors' Day, which was yesterday, to all of our UMMC physicians, including our residents and fellows. A day doesn't go by that I don't think how fortunate we are to have so many wonderful physicians teaching, caring and leading on all of our campuses. I am privileged to call you my colleagues and friends.

As a reminder, I answer your questions on the last Friday of every month. I read all of your questions and comments and appreciate them all - even the tough ones. I don't have space to respond to all of them, but I forward the rest to senior administrators for further consideration.

Now, on to your questions.

Q:  I just want to express how deeply troubled I am to have seen an employee so badly injured by being hit by a car this morning by the stadium. It made me physically sick with fear for her condition, and my next thought was that could have been me, as she was in the path I walk every morning from where I park my car. I actually have almost been struck by a speeding car myself in that very crosswalk, even though I am extremely diligent about being aware of my surroundings before crossing. Please see that something is quickly done to make our parking situation safer. Having a crossing guard there or more signage seems too little, too late at this point, but maybe it will keep this from happening to someone else. That crosswalk is one of dozens of places where cars cross paths with pedestrians out there which is beyond ridiculous. It makes awful incidents like this inevitable. Thank you for allowing us to voice our concerns, I hope you know that it's very much appreciated.

A:  I share your concern about the pedestrian - our employee - who was hit by a car at the stadium earlier this month. I'm grateful she reportedly had only minor bumps and bruises and was not injured more seriously. Since this incident, I'm told we have increased our police presence at the stadium during the morning and evening commutes and are issuing citations to drivers whose actions endanger pedestrians. We are considering a couple of areas where improved signage and better defined crosswalks might help. Even with the most effective safety measures in place, though, we all have to remember to be on the defensive when we're in the presence of moving vehicles.

VC_PT.jpgQ:  Will there not be a University Wellness Center in Jackson at all? Why?

A:  The closure of our University Wellness Centers' downtown and northeast Jackson locations is part of our financial improvement plan. This was a business decision to reduce our costs and focus our limited resources on what we consider to be the centers with the best prospects for success implementing and sustaining a medical wellness model. On the horizon, we are looking at a plan that would offer space for our employees to exercise on campus, but the details have not been finalized. 

Q:  Our faculty and staff have recognized that our financial situation requires significant changes in order to make up our deficit. We understand that these changes may be difficult, including pay cuts or terminating some employees. I have heard many employees and faculty ask, “What specific cuts have been made in the hospital administrative budgets? Are senior leadership positions experiencing salary reductions or reducing staff?” I anticipate that the answer to these questions are yes. I think outlining some of these specifics in a public forum would lessen some of the sting many employees feel from their suddenly reduced paycheck or the termination of a fellow employee.

A:  As I mentioned when our financial plan was implemented, the reductions were spread across the organization in a uniform way. Our hospitals eliminated several executive and/or senior management positions as well as nonclinical support positions. They have been working hard to reduce costs for the past three years. Although admissions are up by more than 10 percent and outpatient visits are up even higher during this period, the number of hospital FTEs and the administrative complement have stayed flat. Despite these ongoing efficiency efforts, our hospitals were still able to achieve the 5 percent spending reduction that was asked of them.

Q:  In light of recent staff reductions, I would like to share my experience(s) in scheduling an appointment via the online portal on ummchealth.com. In the past, I have attempted to schedule an appointment on five different occasions. I never received a response from anyone at this organization about my request for an appointment. Each time I waited about a week, and then in frustration scheduled care elsewhere. That is a lost opportunity for UMMC. If one were to multiply this scenario by every new patient that has attempted to make an appointment versus those that actually received an appointment, I'm positive you will find substantial opportunities lost. There are many opportunities to harness lost revenue and they are literally right in front of our noses. Many thanks!

A:  I'm sorry you had difficulty scheduling an appointment. I asked our team in ambulatory operations to look into it and they tell me there is an effort underway to shift the online appointment feature into Epic so that it will be better integrated into the workflow of our schedulers. They did a quick audit of the approximately 1,300 requests for appointments that have come through this portal since the first of the year. Of 15 requests sampled, 12 resulted in appointments; the other three are being investigated. I share your concern that we should have near 100 percent reliability for this appointment method and so we will follow through with the transition to Epic. Thank you for sharing your experience in an attempt to help us improve.

Q:  Many of us are terrified that more layoffs are coming after the "first wave," so to speak, and that we are all going to lose our jobs. I am very thankful to still work here, but the feeling of fear and fret in the air is palpable. Do you have any words on whether more layoffs are coming? Also, I've heard the manner in which employees are being let go is harsh and abrupt. They are not thanked for their service to this institution and are escorted off campus quickly. This is so disturbing to me. If a job is going to be removed from a person, they should be dealt with at the very least in a kind, gentle, polite manner. Simply telling them their position is eliminated and then escorting them off campus is like a punishment rather than a sorrowful release.

A:  I'll answer your last question first. Conducting a layoff of this magnitude is extremely difficult, and while there was no doubt some variability in how things were handled depending on the personnel involved, I know that our Human Resources staff went to great lengths to ensure that our colleagues who were impacted were treated as respected members of the UMMC family, deserving of compassion and dignity. All of these difficult conversations began and ended with a “thank you.”  For various reasons, it is important to conduct the separation in an efficient manner rather than prolonging the process, and that can come across as being overly abrupt. However, we did arrange for an outplacement activity that was well-attended and well-received by our employees.

As for future layoffs, I understand your concerns and fears. Although I do not expect another layoff on the scale of what we just experienced, as I have said several times recently, we will still be dealing with a very tight budget for at least another fiscal year. As we continue to look for efficiencies, I expect we will undertake additional restructuring that may result in some job loss, but hopefully not on a large scale. In fact, we often find that while we may no longer need some positions, we need additional help in other areas for which our employees may be qualified. The best advice I have is to try not to worry, and whatever your job happens to be, keep doing it to the best of your ability. Have a positive attitude and seek opportunities to broaden your skills. Someone once said the best assurance of job security is to make yourself indispensable. I can't predict the future with complete certainty, but I'm confident that UMMC is indispensable to our state, and that we will get through these challenging times in the service of A Healthier Mississippi. I appreciate all that each and every one of you is doing to help us get there.



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