Happy Friday! And since it’s the last Friday of the month, today I’ll answer your questions.
As a reminder, I read all of your questions and appreciate all of them. I’m able to answer only a few of them here, but I pass the rest along to others for review and possible action.
Now, on to your questions.
Q: We often see incentives and appreciation shown for clinicians, but we all know that staff—although not the money makers in the department—are a big part of making UMMC successful in its mission. What efforts does UMMC make to encourage and appreciate staff?
A: There are many ways we show appreciation to our non-clinician staff. One of the most important is through recognition of service. Every week UMMC's internal newsletter, eCV, publishes the names of employees who are celebrating service anniversaries. I know that in many units, including my own, these dates don't go by without personal acknowledgement of the contributions of these hard-working individuals. eCV also routinely publishes articles about staff accomplishments, whether individual or part of a group. Beyond that, our Awards Team recognizes staff members who have provided exemplary service. Although many nominees come from the health system, this program is open to all, including non-clinical staff. Nominations can be made through a form found on the UMMC Intranet. A less formal venue for recognition is our People of the U group Facebook page. Again, many of the 1,680 followers are from the health system, but it is open to all and I encourage you to join. Finally, I was impressed that at our Excellence in Research Awards event last Wednesday, a staff member was singled out for outstanding contributions to our research effort. I'd love to see more formal acknowledgement like this that UMMC simply couldn't function, and certainly couldn't excel, without our dedicated staff.
Q: I have a question regarding cafeteria pricing. There is a special offered every night for $6. On Friday night, one entree and two sides with a drink was $12. Many were surprised as there were no signs indicating the huge jump in price. The items offered have been offered previously at the regular prices. We were also told that no employee discount would be given for whatever reason. Who makes up these random rules and prices and why are there no prices visible? Restaurant pricing at a hospital cafeteria is ridiculous!
A: To answer your question, I turned to Greg Richmond, director of food and nutrition services. Here is his reply:
“The late night menu along with pricing is posted in two places. At the top of the UMMC Intranet home page, click Campus Menus. You will see a tab that says “Late Night Specials” in the middle of the page. Click it to see the late night menu specials for the week. You will also find the late night menu for the week with pricing on the main monitor as you walk into the cafeteria every night. Most of the specials are priced at $6.49 (some a slight bit higher, depending on the items and the cost to prepare the food). Normally there is a second item that is priced about $4.49 and the sides are sold separately. The employee discount applies to all of those items.
The pricing structure is evaluated two times per year by a department at the Morrison corporate level (our food service vendor). Each item is reviewed and this sometimes results in slight price increases and reductions. Many factors go into determining pricing, such as cost of food, cost to prepare the food and the local market.
In your case, it appears there was a mistake in how the food was rung up at the cash register. We will work with our late night staff to ensure this does not happen again. If you ever encounter any issues concerning pricing or service, or if you have any comments or concerns about food services, please email email@example.com so we can address the issue. We hope you have noticed the new menu items and wider variety of offerings during the late night meal time. We have worked very hard to improve our services.
Q: My husband and I are both employees here and are proud to be expecting a baby that will be born at Wiser! However, we are concerned that our baby's first breath of outside air will not be "fresh," but instead will be filled with smoke. At the drop-off/pick-up outside of Wiser's Urgent Care entrance, we encounter smokers on a daily basis (in the old ambulance bay). What can be done to enforce UMMC's non-smoking campus policy in this space?
A: Congratulations on your exciting news and I am glad you are choosing our wonderful team at UMMC for your care! As the leader of a health care organization committed to improving our citizens’ health, I’m committed to our policy prohibiting the use of tobacco products on campus. But it’s a difficult policy to enforce, in part because our patients and their families and visitors—all guests on our campus—are the most visible violators of the policy.
We do have administrative tools to deter employees and students from smoking on campus, but all we can do with patients and other visitors is to politely inform them of the policy and ask that they not smoke near building entrances or in locations that subject others to exposure to second-hand smoke. I would remind our clinicians that patients can be prescribed smoking cessation medications during a stay in the hospital and all who struggle with this addiction can be referred to the ACT Center for help with quitting.
Ultimately, it is up to each of us to politely inform visitors that UMMC is a tobacco-free campus and to steer them toward these resources to help them quit.
Q: We are excited about the new crosswalk near Garage B, but we need to know when the lower gate in the corner will be unlocked. It was unlocked last week, but Monday, Oct. 16 at 2:30 p.m. it was locked. Many of us come in from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. and need to use this gate as it makes no sense to have the crosswalk and not be able to use this gate to access our vehicles in Lot A and to avoid the side street and traffic beside the Department of Health building.
A: Campus Police Chief Michael Stamps informs me that the walkthrough gate near the Department of Health is opened weekdays on a regular schedule well before rush hour, remains open throughout the day, and is closed well after rush hour ends in the evening. He is reluctant to publish the precise opening and closing times in this forum because this information can be easily obtained by intruders who can work around our security plan. If you need the exact times, please consult one of our officers. Due to recent assignment changes in the department, this gate was inadvertently closed for several days—including the day you mention—but that has been corrected.
Q: Nearly every entrance to UMMC is impacted by construction. Of course, the closure of the south entrance is "growing pains" related to the new Children's tower. Perhaps the State Street construction, first with the closures due to sidewalk repair and now traffic light installation, are out of our control, but they are without question a barrier to navigating our facility. Even the road to the main entrance to the hospital has large potholes that are poorly (or not at all) filled with gravel. It is hard enough for employees to navigate all of this, much less our patients who often are trying to move from one clinic to another for multiple appointments in a day. Is there an end date in sight for this eyesore and headache? It doesn't make a great first impression when arriving at the U.
A: Construction and the inconvenience it poses are part of our daily experience here at the Medical Center. The improvements to sidewalks and crosswalks on State Street have been a minor headache but we hope they will achieve their intended goal of enhanced pedestrian safety, and the same is true for the Woodrow Wilson Avenue crossing. We’ve had a series of large construction projects that have led to closures and detours. The heavy trucks that support these projects take a toll on our roadways, especially given the clay-rich soils in this part of Mississippi.
All in all, our teams in Planning, Design and Construction and in Physical Facilities do a great job of keeping up with temporary signage, pavement repairs, displaced parking and other maintenance issues that crop up as a result of new construction. In fact, since you submitted your question, I noticed that the campus streets in front of University Hospital have now been repaved in several places and are looking good.
Is there an end date in sight? I hope not, because we still need new buildings to accommodate our growth and to replace outdated facilities that are only marginally meeting our needs. But I promise we will do all we can to minimize inconvenience for all concerned. Our employees' courteous assistance to lost visitors is so appreciated in these situations.
Change can be difficult, but change also suggests a vibrancy and energy that can be positive if managed appropriately. A hallmark of successful organizations today is that they effectively and efficiently adapt to change. The very best embrace it. I have every intention that UMMC will be one of those organizations, and I hope you join me in that commitment as we make our way toward A Healthier Mississippi.