Monday, August 30, 2004

Consultants Pay Workers to Picket

Nurses called a work action in response to Cambio Healthcare Solution’s ignoring their input on patient care and safe staffing, they called for a one day walk out. The walk out was scheduled for Highland Hospital, Fairmont Hospital and John George Psychiatric Hospital. When workers at the county clinics showed up to their work on Friday, they were given a memo saying that the clinics would be closed on the day of the walk out and that clinic workers would be expected to report to the hospitals. When clinic workers showed up to work on Monday, August 30, they were locked out. So hundreds of additional paid picketers came to the hospitals and joined the protest.

Cambio Healthcare Solutions mismanages three hospitals and a string of community clinics. Most of their employees were standing outside today in front of the hospitals with signs that said “Safe Staffing Now”, “Don’t Close the County Hospital” and “Cambio Has Got to Go” and Cambio decided to play it coy. A Cambio representative at the rally actually told a reporter he didn’t know what this walk out was all about. Scary but probably true, Cambio and the executive temps don’t even show up to union negotiations anymore, they send a sub sub consultant and they do seem utterly befuddled by hospital management. They have however correctly identified that they have, well, a “situation.” So they’re doing what any patient centered quality minded management team would do, they’re getting more public relations. Cambio muzzled their millions of dollars worth of temporary executives, all of whom are vying for permanent positions at the medical center. Now Mike Brown, from Raleigh and Brown Public Relations Consulting, takes all the questions. Raleigh is apparently in Afghanistan trying to put a happy face on the Bush administration’s little problem over there.

A Reader's Response to "What Are They Hiding?"

Want to know what Cambio Healthcare Solutions is hiding? I can tell you. I am just an RN but I can tell you what I would hide from the politicos. I can't get food for my patients, everyday. I can't get my meds on time to my patients, everyday. I can't get basic supplies to take care of my patients, everyday. I can't get clean linens for my patients, everyday. I can't get charts from medical records for my patients, everyday. I can't provide safe and competent care to my patients, everyday. I can't get blood products for my patients, everyday. I can't get critical labs for my patients, everyday. I can't get x-rays or CT scans for my patients, everyday. I am forced to work with registry and travelers who could care less about our policies and procedures, everyday. I cannot and will not blame these problems on their various departments, as it is not the frontline providers who are to blame. Well, whom do you blame? That, I can tell you. Cambio and the executive team are aware of these problems, as I have spoken to several of them personally. The Board of Trustees is aware of these problems, as I have spoken to several of them personally. Supervisor Gail Steele is aware of these problems, as I have spoken to her personally. Our Chief Nurse Executive is aware of these problems as I have, along with others on many, many occasions brought these problems to her attention. We as frontline caregivers must focus our anger and frustration on those who perpetuate the persistent and very dangerous environment we are forced to work in. At least those of us who are left. I applaud my co-workers for the commitment they have to our patients. We are not the problem, we are the solution. WE ALL MUST BAND TOGETHER AND SUPPORT THE SAFE AND DIGNIFIED CARE OUR PATIENTS DESERVE EACH AND EVERYDAY!!!!!!!!!

Lynne Behr RN

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Walking Out

Walk out! Actually, medical center staff just won’t walk into work on Monday August 30, 2004. Caregivers have tired of reasoning with absent executives and Cambio consulting.

The Highland emergency department (this includes the trauma center) is budgeted to have 126 full time staff. There are 29 vacant positions. When Cambio presented their lay-off proposal to employees they re-labeled the 29 vacant positions overage, cut them, and then decided they could lay-off an additional 12 people. It’s the, Eron school of accounting. Their proposal leaves 85 people to do 24 hours, 7 days week coverage of the emergency department. This kind of staffing won’t get us through a mild flu season, much less an earthquake or State hospital inspection.

Caregivers have decided to take their case to the public, the politicians and the private hospitals. After all Alta Bates and Summit Hospitals will have to take all the patients who will be turned away from the medical center because of staffing shortages.

What Are They Hiding?

Well just when you think things can’t get any stranger, they do. Today representatives from State Senator Figueroa’s office, and staff from Assembly Member's Ellen Corbet, Wilma Chan and John Dutra’s office along with County Supervisor Steele and staff from Supervisor Carson and Lai-Bitker’s office all came with union representatives to tour Highland Hospital and speak with hospital employees.

They were met in the lobby by the Cambio Health Solutions team, the temporary executive staff and Cambio’s attorney. The politicians were told they could not tour the facility without a Cambio escort. This resulted in a heated exchange between County Supervisor Steele and a herd of tall suited men. The consultants maintained that patient privacy would be compromised if politicians walked through patient care floors. Staff found this a little odd since they sent a documentary film crew through a couple months ago with just a PR guy. In the spirit of compromise and in an effort to get out of the lobby, the state and local politicos agreed to only visit outpatient areas and to do so under the supervision of a sheriff’s deputy.

Patients and staff were really disappointed when the standoff in the lobby broke up, and no one is quite sure what the consultants were trying to hide.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Rock Bottom

Well, the medical center has been around awhile, it’s seen some spectacular scandals, some flamboyant flops, but lately it feels like things might have sunk to a new low. Staff and supply shortages have ground many areas to a crawl if not a halt. Sure the consultants continue to forge ahead insisting that cutting 43% of the staff on a nursing floor that treats the critically ill won’t affect service or quality, but no one really listens to them anymore. They keep coming up with new bad ideas, but the consultant/executive team has become so dysfunctional at this point they couldn’t fix a sandwich, without 20 subcontractors.

The county supervisors hired them to “downsize.” The supervisors wanted a fast neat surgical strike, hundreds of annoying union employees gone in a single blow, leaving a budget surplus. The extra cash could be quietly moved back into the county supervisor’s pockets and used for Alameda County’s high priority projects like paying off Al Davis, building more jails, or granting fat contracts to big political donors. Well, things didn’t go as expected, that’s the problem with these “get rich quick plans.” The consultants couldn’t deliver the cash, but that’s the good news, the bad news is they don’t know how to run a hospital; things aren’t just staying the same they are deteriorating rapidly. It‘s time that we officially declare this situation a quagmire.

What has frightened staff and patients more then ridiculous lay-off proposals is the consulting team’s complete inability to manage the day-to-day operations. As my mother used to say when I would leave her home alone with my father and my brother, “I’m in a sinking ship with blind sailors!”

Cambio Health Solutions Attempts to Kill Free Money

In the last few years the medical center created the, better late than never, department of diversity affairs. Though good intensions count, funding has been lean, so the physician director of the department applied for $500,000 worth of grant funding to run programs for patients with low English proficiency. There’s nothing better than free money and most hospital administrators encourage their people to seek this kind of funding. Not so with Cambio Health Solutions. Temporary COO Watts contacted the grant agency and withdrew the proposal. This created a huge dust up, politicians, doctors and community groups all called foul, so Cambio backed down and allowed the grant to be submitted. No one can figure out if it’s the free money or the minorities that they don’t like.

Anonymous said... (from comments to "Rally Fever")

Anonymous said...
Well,well,well. Did Cambio get caught by suprise when the state inspectors showed up? Do you suppose that they actually thought their fine work would go un-noticed? Hey, speaking of work, what have they actually done since February 6th? That fabulous productivity report is garbage and unusable. You can't compare apples to hot dogs and get away with it. Perhaps they could generate some revenue if at the next rally they give us cups and signs to beg for donations. Hey, better yet they could charge us admission to rallies or board meetings. If we didn't do our jobs for 6 months (with pay) we would either be fired or offered a job in administration. The clock is ticking Cambio. How about earning some of those millions your sucking from our poor patients. Remember, we know where to post our part of your resume!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Thank You Jesse Jackson

On August 12, 2004 the Reverend Jesse Jackson came to Highland Hospital and spoke to the promises of Measure "A" and the need for healthcare in our community.

Thank you Reverend Jackson for keeping hope alive at the medical center.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Rally Fever

Our new leaders, Cambio consulting and the imported executives they flew in to put a kinder gentler face on downsizing have spent most of the week hiding from the hospital inspectors who have been ripping the hospital apart for the last four days. According to staff, the inspectors noticed the staffing shortages, the housekeeping rationing and the sloppy charting that results from lack of management and over reliance on outsourced providers. Ken Cohen, the CEO who the Board of Supervisors ran off a year ago helped the medical center sail through the last inspection with high marks. There was a coordinated effort to prepare the staff and the facility for inspection. Many of the employees Cambio ran off were hired to bring the hospital into compliance with state and federal regulations.

So did Cambio scrub the facility and fatten the staffing in preparation for the scrutiny? Well, no. In fact there had been no consultant or executive sitings for days. For 5 million dollars you don’t just get an empty suit, you get an empty desk, an empty limo and an empty suite at the Hilton. The only sign that most employees get that there is any management is the increased police presence and the weekly memos from Temporary CEO Mike, which contain mostly anti-union rhetoric and pious dribble about fiscal responsibility (as if overworked employees were flushing cash down the toilets on their breaks). It turns out that even Mike’s memos are outsourced to the $100,000 dollar a year public relations firm. So that’s two hundred words a week for a $100,000 dollars a year, that’s $2,000 dollars per memo plus the cost of Mike’s signature. And they’re talking to us about fiscal responsibility! Well, in the interest of teamwork and financial responsibility, the Dirt is officially offering to write the weekly memos for half the cost of our PR firm.

So no one expected the consultants or temporary executives to come out of hiding until the inspectors left, and they certainly did not expect them to attend the Stop the Service Cuts Rally called by the unions, the workers and the community. The fight to see that the spirit and the letter of the Measure “A” initiative is implemented has now attracted national attention. The Reverend Jesse Jackson came to Highland to speak out against the staff and service cuts and to the importance of the medical center, to our community. On August 12 at noon hundreds of healthcare workers, union members, patients, and community members rallied in front of Highland Hospital and chanted:

Hey Hey Ho Ho
Healthcare cuts have got to go!

Standing with the crowd was TCEO Burroughs, Cambio’s Chief Implementation Officer, Susan Crutchfield and Temporary Chief Operating Officer, Claude Watts Jr. Why, the union representatives even gave them sign-in cards and workers say when Jesse led the chant calling for more staff their lips were moving! At the next rally healthcare providers plan to invite them to hold hands.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Performance Review

Six months into rightsizing and re-organizing what do you get? The county of Alameda is millions of dollars deep into Cambio consulting. Cambio has consultants and interim executives flying into Oakland, riding to their executive suites, and living on unlimited expense accounts.

So what does the public get, besides a good show? Well we got a lay-off list filled with retirees and other ex-employees, we get lots of memos from Mike the temporary CEO, on the nice thick paper, we have four hour waits in the pharmacy, and patients stuck for days in the emergency department, and if things continue on the current path we will likely have a strike. Actually, Cambio has run-off, run over and retired close to a hundred employees, not necessarily employees the medical center could afford to lose but they are gone.

Cambio did produce a budget and the board of trustees did approve it. It contains the incredible shrinking lay-off list, which is down to 185 people; while there are 350 vacant positions, so it isn’t even clear that lay-offs are needed. Unfortunately the consultants can’t get their spread sheets lined up straight enough to determine if the employees slated for lay-off can all be moved into vacant positions. They have succeeded in revitalizing the health care labor movement in the East Bay. Hundreds perhaps thousands of healthcare workers outraged by the misuse of
Measure A funds and the wasteful consultant contracts have begun organizing. There is huge energy and momentum.

On Tuesday, August 03, 2004, workers at all of the county health care clinics walked out and went to 1221 Oak Street to meet with their County Supervisors. The County Supervisors sensing rightly that this was an unusually large crowd and that things have gotten well “out of hand,” took decisive action. They invited the labor unions and the board of trustees to a tea party. The labor unions, and the care providers are doubtful that their differences can be worked out over brunch, so it looks like a strike. The good news is service in many areas has deteriorated so badly that patients might not notice if workers left for a day.