Saturday, June 27, 2015

So this is "retirement?"

I've heard people say they are busier in retirement than when they were working. 
Some things you have to experience for yourself.

I retired from the bedside on June 11, giving myself 2 1/2 weeks to "relax" before starting my new job.
But the world waits for no man.
I've spent 3 days in Danbury and another 3 signing papers and attending meetings related to the new position. 
Not that I haven't had company.  My fellow officers have been right alongside of me.
Oh, and that break that the organizing staff was looking forward to after the long days they've spent recently, I applologise to their families, that will have to wait.

I was in the office yesterday. I had one meeting and I organized my office so that come Wednesday (my first "official" day) I'll be good to go. 
I need to thank the staff for their patience with me for all my questions on where this or that is.
"Anna, do you dial 9 to get an outside line?"
God bless them, they'll have their hands full with me.

People have asked me if it's been a difficult change to be away from the bedside, away from my patients and my coworkers.
It's hard to say.  
I've been so busy and it's only been two weeks. 
I don't miss the stress of always feeling there wasn't enough time or help to do the quality job we wanted.

I do know this, advocating for my coworkers and our patients is a 24/7 proposition and one I welcome.
I understand there are changes in healthcare.  I recognize that some of them are for the good.
I also recognize that changes are taken by some people as opportunities to profit at the expense of the patients and their caregivers.
I see the same trend in education and public service. 

Beware of "privatization." It's not necessarily bad, but there's usually a reason someone wants to own a hospital, a school, or a public service.
One of my goals will be to always beat the drum loudly,
Patients Before Profits! 
Students Before Profits! 
The Public Before Profits!"

I have found an inspiration in my "retirement."
Larry Lewis lived in San Francisco. He lived to be 106. 
Until shortly before his death, he ran 6 miles daily, walked several miles to and from work and worked as a waiter.
Mr Lewis said, " When I hear someone say he's going to lay in the sun and enjoy his retirement, I know he's about to meet his maker."

Those my friends, are words to live by.



Thursday, June 25, 2015

Patients before profits

It's state budget time in Connecticut and hospital CEOs didn't get everything they wanted so they're taking it out on their employees and patients.

Across the state, the dwindling number of "healthcare systems" are crying poverty and announcing layoffs.
These "not for profit" hospital systems are subsidized with taxpayer money.

Who is hurt?
Employees who dedicate themselves to the care of others and the patients they care for.

Let me give you one example.
Hartford Healthcare is the "not for profit" parent of Backus Hospital (where I worked for 21 years) and several other hospitals. 
This week they announced layoffs that will effect 418 people!
The Norwich Bulletin reports that in the fiscal year that ended September 30, 2013, the most recent available from the IRS, East Region President David Whitehead earned $1.09 million!

That's almost $21,000/week!
An environmental services worker making $10/hour makes $20,800/year.

BTW, "not for profit" Backus Hospital earned a $48 million profit in 2013.
It gets worse.
Mr Whitehead was only the 17th highest paid Connecticut hospital official that year.
In fact, Hartford Healthcare CEO, Elliot Joseph racked in $2.1 million and chief Operating Officer Jeffery Flaks $1.01 million.

When asked if these top earners have received less pay since 2013 as a result of the financial difficulties their spokesperson said the company does not comment on "specific employee compensation."

In an article in the New Haven Register, Connecticut Hospital Association lobbyist Stephen Frayne said the discussions about salaries is "a distraction."

He's right.

The bigger problem is that layoffs cause a lack of sufficient nurses and techs at the bedside, environmental services people to clean deadly hospital bugs, food services people to provide wholesome nutrition, etc.

I think retiring AFT Connecticut President Melodie Peters, an LPN and former state senator, said it best in responding to a statement that Connecticut hospital corporations were "transforming how we deliver health care."
She said, "so far, it looks more like they are hijacking how our state's community hospitals have traditionally served the public good. They -along with the lavishly compensated top health networks across the state- have made health care delivery look more like a game of Pac-Man than the very serious business of providing quality, affordable health care.  It's long past the time they put patients before profits - something they are obligated to do in exchange for their nonprofit, tax-exempt status."


Monday, June 22, 2015

I cry for Charleston

I cry for Charleston
and for Newtown
and Columbine 
and Boston
and Baltimore
and 911
and, and ,and........

So many I wonder if we are not numb. 
What else explains our inability to find a solution?

Often there is hatred involved, of another race, religion, sexual preference or something else. 
Often there is mental illness involved.

You combine that with the ability to possess a leathal weapon and tragedy is the result.  

I understand the right to bear arms, I understand individual freedom, but I also understand the right to life.
We need to keep leathal weapons out of the hands to those who would do others harm.
We need to provide treatment for those who are ill.
We need a commitment to make this happen.

I grow weary of crying for the innocents. 


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Solidarity yesterday, today and tomorrow

I was my privilege to work with some of the nicest people in Connecticut this week.
I was in Danbury and New Milford, working with the healthcare workers of the two hospitals, AFT state and national staff and my fellow officers of AFT Connecticut.
These workers are the people who assist in the care of the patients, feed them, and keep the hospital clean and running and they are the lower paid employees of the hospital.  
Many of them could make more money working in other industries but they know that what they do makes a difference in patient's lives and that matters to them.

That is why they came together over the last several months to fight for a voice at the workplace.
They care.

The hospitals' response was to hire union buster "consultants," hired to intimidate and lie to the workers and influence the election.
A month ago, AFT exposed the "consultants" as convicted thugs who had served time for their crimes.
It took the hospitals nearly a month to "fire" the "consultants, saying "individuals from the agency have “backgrounds contrary to our organizational values,”

Of course, the "individuals" were the 2 partners of the firm and the hospitals waited until just days before the election and only after workers turned up the heat.
By then, the damage had been done.
Charges of labor law violations by the hospital are being investigated by the NLRB.

At any rate, the illegal tactics had an effect, the workers narrowly voted not to unionize at this time.
Still, nearly half the workers, in the words of AFT CT Spokesman Matt O'Conner, "came together and raised their voices collectively and they have already made significant change.”  “They didn’t gain the certification from the federal labor board for their union, but for all intents and purposes, they’ve already shown they’re stronger together.”

I won't lie.
This hurts, and it hurts because of a simple reason.
We care.

We care about the workers and the patients they provide care for.
They are our brothers and sisters.  We are proud of them and we stand with them, yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Because you stand with family when they go through rough times.
And you celebrate with them when times get better.
Solidarity.



Thursday, June 18, 2015

Don't believe the lies

The Healthcare Workers of New Milford and Danbury Hospitals in Connecticut have an important decision tomorrow. 
They decide whether or not to join the the union, in this case, AFT.
Coworkers and AFT staff have been reaching out to them.
Managers and "consultants" have been having meetings with them.
I imagine many of them will be glad when it is over.

I have a message, don't believe the lies. 

I was were you are 4 years ago.
I was a RN at Backus Hospital in Norwich.
I had worked there for 17 years at that time, all in the ER, first as a PCT, then a RN.
I had seen the cost cutters come through.
I had seen my hospital change.
I received a call from a coworker and I sat and talked to "the man from the union."
Management said they union was evil, that it would take my money, that I would never have a voice.

They lied.

We now have a seat at the table.
Not "the union," but I and my coworkers.
We negotiate a contract with that covers wages and working conditions.
Again, not "the union," but us, aided by a professional field rep whom we picked.
Because we are an autonomous local, we make our own decisions. 

Last Thursday I visited my hospital Chaplin, whom I have known for 21 years.
Sister Rita has spent a lot of days with me in the ER, comforting patients, families, and staff.
I asked her to bless me on that, my last day at the bedside, because after 21 years at the bedside as a PCT and RN, I was leaving to serve as your state federation executive Vice President.

Management wants to make "the union" some outside third party.
What I am saying is this.
I have walked your walk, not in some distant past but as recent as last week.
I have a voice.
My coworkers have a voice.
You will have a voice.