I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving break. Due to the holiday, I didn’t have the opportunity to answer some of your questions last Friday, so I’m doing that today.
As a reminder, I read and appreciate all of your questions and comments. They are one important way that I learn what’s on your mind. I’m not able to respond to all of them in this column, but I pass the rest on to senior administrators for review and possible action.
Now, on to your questions.
Q: Lately I have noticed there are not many wheelchairs in the Pavilion. The few that we do have are in poor condition. Most of the wheelchairs are safety hazards for our patients due to the locks and foot rests being broken. Is there a budget in place to replace or fix the wheelchairs?
A: We do budget for wheelchair replacements. As you can imagine, our wheelchairs get a lot of use, so we have a continuous replacement plan in place to keep our fleet in good working order. However, sometimes wheelchairs get damaged outside of the normal replacement schedule. If this happens and wheelchairs are in need of repair or replacement, please let a manager in your area know. (For the Pavilion, call Sherry Denny at 5-3187.) As I’m sure you know, the other problem is that wheelchairs are not always promptly returned to the area where they are assigned. In response to your comment, we’ve asked that an inventory be done of the current number and condition of the wheelchairs in the Pavilion.
Q: Why does Mississippi Blood Services no longer come to UMMC quarterly to receive blood donations? I would donate blood nearly every time they came because it was convenient, as they would come to multiple locations on and off campus over several days, and I felt like I was doing my part for our patients who may need to receive blood. Lately I have only seen them come to the main campus when a student-led program initiates it.
A: We made a concerted effort to increase our blood donations a number of years ago, but since then our collections have tapered off. Earlier this year we expanded a committee to again look at increasing the blood donation rates for UMMC. That group is working on redesigning collection activities to ensure that both the student population and the faculty/staff population have appropriate opportunities to give in multiple locations. My understanding is the committee’s work is not yet complete, but we anticipate significant improvements in the opportunities for our UMMC family to donate in 2018. In the meantime, thank you for your generous commitment to donate for the benefit of our patients and others who need this precious resource.
Q: Dr. Woodward, first of all, I appreciate you making yourself available for communication with UMMC employees via your weekly column and this option to submit our questions to you. However, I have oftentimes hesitated to send any comments or questions to you as I know you have "bigger fish to fry." Is there any way to make a form where employees can send comments to department heads similar to this online form?
A: Our Human Resources Department maintains a “Virtual Suggestion Box” that employees can use to submit comments, questions or suggestions for improvement. These may be submitted anonymously or with the employee’s name. Submissions are distributed to the appropriate administrator and a formal response is provided to the submitter, even when the submission is anonymous. The Virtual Suggestion Box can be accessed through the Intranet under the Administration tab. The direct link is here.
Q: It is admirable that UMMC is providing additional compensation for those who support the clinical mission. However, this mission has received a market compensation adjustment way more recently than the other missions. The research mission is often overlooked and underpaid. What, if any, are the plans to help compensate these individuals? Oftentimes an individual with a master’s degree in biology (Researcher III) makes less at UMMC than what they would make as a public school teacher.
A: We value the contributions of all UMMC employees regardless of their role or the specific mission they may be associated with. However, the labor market for health care professionals has been extremely volatile for several years, and it’s essential that UMMC stay competitive in this market. At the same time, I realize the cost of living continues to rise for all of our employees, so that’s why I’ve committed to analyzing compensation in a system-wide, intentional manner through multiple years to determine opportunities to make additional adjustments.
Q: Recently on social media there has been discussion of flooding in Belhaven during large rainstorms. Some commenters are pointing fingers at the construction that has occurred at UMMC as a cause for this flooding. What should we say in response to such claims?
A: First and foremost, we want to be good neighbors to the communities of Belhaven and Fondren, and we do all we can to minimize any negative impacts associated with our campus. All of our construction projects fall under the regulatory purview of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. For each new project, we provide an environmental assessment and impact study, including an assessment for storm water runoff. When those studies indicate that mitigation measures are necessary, we implement them. For example, a storm water detention area was designed and built as part of the recently completed Parking Garage C, School of Medicine education building and East University Drive projects. Additionally, the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge, currently under construction on North State Street, has been designed with an underground storm water retention system. What some people don’t realize is that most of our new construction is occurring on former parking lots, so the change in impermeable surface area is often negligible. The Children’s of Mississippi expansion, which is currently under study for its storm water impact, is being built on three parking lots and is expected to actually reduce the amount of impermeable surface area by 5 percent. There are many factors that contribute to downstream storm water issues in Belhaven and elsewhere. We will work with the city and others to look at these issues in a more holistic manner in order to drive comprehensive solutions.
Thank you again for your response to VC Notes! Your voice is valued, and contributes to our progress toward A Healthier Mississippi.