Happy Friday and happy third payday of the month. To many of you, Happy Easter. And to all of our amazing physicians who serve humanity and make UMMC look good every day, Happy Doctor’s Day 2018. Thank you.
Since it’s the last Friday of the month, today I’ll answer some of your questions. As a reminder, I read all of your questions and appreciate all of them. They are an important source of information – and often inspiration – for me. I’m unable to answer all of them in this venue, but I forward many of them to administrators for their review and possible action.
Now, on to your questions.
Q: The main cafeteria has been issuing food in red and white paper bowls that do not have a cover. When asked about the white carry out disposable trays they normally use, employees are being told the red and white bowls are being used to help control food portions, and they will need to cover their own food at the plastic wrap section. This is not only unsanitary, it is a public heath safety concern. I have never seen this during daytime business hours. With all the different food stations, how can this possibly not be a health code violation? A person would not go to a restaurant and receive uncovered food to go. Food issued in a public hospital cafeteria should be in an enclosed container. Employees should not have to carry uncovered food through hospital halls, violating all types of infection control procedures. This is very concerning. Employees are being charged the same prices and are given less than half of the portions. However, the biggest concern is proper handling of food which includes how it is given to the employees.
A: According to the leaders of our food and nutrition services, managed by Morrison, what you are seeing is a trend in the food services industry to move away from polystyrene disposables toward more environment-friendly packaging. UMMC uses more than half a million polystyrene food containers per year. Most of these wind up in a landfill where they can literally take thousands of years to break down into potentially harmful constituents. Some of our recycling efforts have been stymied in recent years due to a soft market for recycled paper and plastic. But polystyrene is not commonly recycled, so this is one area where we can make a difference. As to concerns about food safety, when properly covered with plastic wrap, food taken from the cafeteria to other locations in the Medical Center should not pose any additional risk to the person(s) consuming it. Finally, I do know that our food services leadership is sensitive to their customers’ desire to receive fair value for their money so I hope your concerns in this area will be addressed soon.
Q: Who is in charge of painting the lines in the stadium parking lot? You can hardly see them and yesterday I had to get into my car on the passenger side and hop over because the driver of the vehicle next to me parked way too close on the driver side. But the lines are barely visible, so I can see how if you can’t see them you don't realize you are over the line.
A: Several other readers have asked about restriping the stadium lot, so I’m happy to share that Physical Facilities has an approved maintenance project to restripe stadium Lots A and B. The restriping will take place after normal working hours and on the weekend. Work is scheduled to start next week, depending on the weather. The stadium overflow lot was restriped several months ago.
Q: The University of Alabama Birmingham Highlands shooting has caused some concern for me as an employee at UMMC. I have been here for over two years, and we have never done an active shooter drill. I know these can be complicated and tedious to orchestrate, but in the world we live in, I feel an active shooter drill needs to be addressed and organized every few months. Employees need to feel safe, and they also need to feel confident that their employer is doing everything they can to protect them when they are at work. We need to be as prepared as possible if this unfortunate situation is to ever arise here.
A: The incident you mention, in which an employee allegedly shot and killed a second employee and critically wounded a hospital contractor before turning the gun on himself, can understandably leave us feeling uneasy. UMMC Police regularly conduct drills with our officers to ensure they are ready to respond to active shooter threats. During the past several years, we have shared information and videos about the best way to respond in these situations. In addition, Gov. Phil Bryant has mandated that all state employees – including Medical Center faculty and staff – complete a workplace violence and active shooter training course. All UMMC employees will receive the training through HealthStream starting next Wednesday, April 4 through May 23. We will also offer the training to our students via Canvas. The training emphasizes tactics to minimize harm, enhance situational awareness, and lessen the potential for workplace violence. We are very fortunate to have our own police department that is specially trained and equipped to deal with this type of threat. Be on the lookout for this training opportunity beginning next week.
Q: On many occasions, I have encountered patients or their family members recording (both audio and video) my team's conversation as we are rounding in the patients' rooms in the hospital. I am certain that in most instances they are recording so that they can remember the plan to share with family members. However, being recorded without my consent makes me very uncomfortable. We spend a great deal of time gaining patients' trust in the hospital. Asking them to stop recording us seems like it would be awkward and potentially degrade our relationship. Does UMMC have a policy on recording of provider-patient interactions? Guidance on how to handle this would be greatly appreciated.
A: A policy on the broad topic of video/audio recording and photography in the clinical environment has not been finalized. I’ll add that creating a policy that anticipates all of the situations where these activities might occur in an environment where virtually everyone is carrying a smartphone that can perform all of these functions is extremely challenging. What I have said before in this column is that we assert that our providers have the right and the responsibility to control the clinical environment and what occurs within it. That extends to the use of audio/video/photography by anyone. As a general rule, audio/video recording and photography of UMMC employees or students by patients or family members should not occur without the consent of our personnel. Certainly we encounter situations where these activities do occur and are harmless and, as you describe, can even be helpful in terms of assisting patients and family document a post-discharge plan of care. If you feel uncomfortable being recorded, then perhaps there’s an alternative approach that can accomplish the same objective for our patients, such as referring them to information in the patient’s MyChart record.
Q: As I was leaving work last week, standing at the crosswalk waiting to cross State Street along with several other employees, a truck swerved onto the sidewalk where we were waiting to cross to avoid hitting the car in front of him who was stopped at the red light. Luckily no one was injured, but this could have been very serious. I know there have been questions in the past about crosswalks or skywalks further down State Street crossing by the ER, but are there any plans for a safer crosswalk or skywalk for those of us crossing State Street in the designated crosswalk? I understand not all of this is UMMC property, but surely something can be done to ensure safety of employees.
A: There’s good news on the horizon for you and other pedestrians who feel they sometimes have to dodge traffic getting to and from work. As of last week, the state Department of Transportation began moving ahead with long-awaited projects on Woodrow Wilson Avenue and North State Street. The Woodrow Wilson project, which is currently underway, will “straighten” the intersection with Peachtree Street, which has always been slightly misaligned, and will introduce a traffic signal and crosswalks. On State Street, a new crosswalk will be created near Garage B, with a pedestrian-activated “hawk” signal to stop traffic in both directions. Farther north, at the entrance to University Hospital and at the “point” where State intersects with Old Canton Road, traffic medians will be installed to slow vehicles and create physical barriers between people and cars. These projects are slated to continue through the summer and wrap up in the fall. When they’re completed, I know they will provide safer and more pleasant passage for people crossing in these locations.
I hope everybody has a wonderful weekend, especially those who are here working on behalf of our patients and students. We’re all headed in the same direction of A Healthier Mississippi.