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HPAE Local 5105 at Virtua-Health (MHBC/CNS & CFW)
Members Attend Presentation on the ACA
October 9, 2013
Over 150 HPAE members from Locals 5015 (Virtua), 5118 (Cooper), 5131 (Inspira/SJH), and 5106 (Temple/Episcopal) attended a membership dinner meeting and presentation on the "Affordable Care Act and Nursing" tonight.
Local 5105 President Debbie White chaired the meeting and introduced the two speakers: Amy Clary and Mary Lehman MacDonald, both of whom are from the national union to which HPAE is affiliated, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
Amy Clary, staff member in AFT's Research and Information Services department, discussed why and how HPAE locals will need to develop new bargaining strategies to respond to the ACA. Mary MacDonald, the Director of AFT Healthcare, focused on how the ACA is helping to drive broad changes in the healthcare industry.
Photos below - Top to bottom: Amy Clary; Mary Lehman MacDonald; Members attending the presentation; (Left to Right) Local 5105 officers Debbie White, Jessica Storicks and Sheryl Mount.
President's Message From Debbie White
August 29, 2013
I've heard many seasoned nurses (and even some newer nurses) comment on how much the hospital environment has changed over the past few years--and it has. Although hospitals wanted to foster patient satisfaction in the past, we didn't necessarily bend over backwards to please our patients
like we do at the present. Now, the environment seems to more closely resemble the retail market where the motto is: "the customer is always right." Patients are our customers and more often than not, we try to give patients whatever they want. Why are we trying so hard to get our patients to like us?
The answer is that there are new Medicare and Medicaid guidelines connecting HCAHP scores (the newest Press Ganey) and reimbursement for the hospital. In a nutshell, Medicare can now penalize hospitals by reducing reimbursement if HCAHP scores drop below a predetermined level. Since these new guidelines connect more money to good scores, we are seeing an increased attention to patient satisfaction.
Hospitals have been put in a position where we must make patients happy at all cost and, of course, as the direct caregivers, nurses are the first line of defense--or maybe offence is a better word. Nurses are relied upon to get those good scores.
I understand all of this. I really do. But I believe the employer has a responsibility as well. They have aresponsibility to afford us the time and tools in which to accomplish this task. Staffing is critical. An overwhelmed nurse cannot, no matter how well intentioned, accomplish this task. Management also has a responsibility to nurture and educate staff and to support staff if they are having difficulty with the transition.
Managers that are punitive and foster work environments that are strained and difficult will produce staff that are fearful and unhappy--which, in turn will be reflected in the job and in the patient. I also believe management must be working equally hard to make nurses feel respected and safe. Finally, managers need to lead by example and be willing to do whatever they are expecting of the nurses. For instance, since there is a big focus on responding to call bells quickly (since that is a question on the HCAHP survey), management as well as staff members should be working toward that end. In addition, it has been shown that patients who have had managers rounding (as well as staff) score higher on HCAHPs.
So what do some of the questions in the HCAHP survey ask about nurses? They ask about courtesy and respect. (i.e. "Did you feel respected?") They ask about communication and education, discharge planning and about whether or not the patient felt his nurses listened to him. This is why it is critical that we have the time to spend talking with patients and listening to their feedback. Patients want to be educated in layman's terms--and in writing, if available. If you hear docs using big words that patients clearly don't understand, break it down for them. Patients who are well educated report a better stay. Pain relief is a big question on the HCAHP survey. The form asks if pain was controlled in several different ways. The survey also asks about quick responses to call bells. This is especially dependent on both adequate staffing and everyone working together--including management.
It's an ever changing environment and we want to educate you as much as we can. We will be hosting a membership dinner meeting on October 9 where the topic of the evening will be healthcare reform and its impact on our profession. This and other aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be discussed. Please try to make every effort to come.
President's Message From Debbie White
May 24, 2013
A not-for-profit hospital, like Virtua, has a legal responsibility to be financially transparent to the public. This is how the Union knows whether or not our employer is telling us the truth about Virtua's financial stability. It's also how we track the spending of our hospital.
But what if Virtua could hide their financial records? What if there was not a way for the Union to find out how our institution was doing financially? Some of our locals in the north and south have been bought out by for-profit institutions. For-profit companies, by law, are held to a different standard than not-for-profit institutions.
These for-profit employers can spend money any way they want and no one holds them accountable. If you talk to nurses who have lived through a for-profit company buy out, you'll find they have similar stories. The primary objective of these companies seems to be to make money, whatever the cost to patients and care.
First come the lay-offs. Then supplies are cut. Support staff is cut. One institution, Meadowlands Hospital, began to charge patients up to 20 times the average rate for steroid injections. This same employer deducted taxes from the paychecks of our members only to put the money in their own pockets! These are our brothers and sisters in HPAE! These members could not even collect unemployment. Since their taxes hadn't been paid, there was no record of employment.
How can these for-profit institutions get away with this? Because there is no financial transparency law for them equal to the requirements placed on not-for-profit hospitals. In addition, New Jersey's (anti-union) Governor Christie vetoed the bill HPAE supported, which was designed to force these institutions to make their financial data public. He supports these employers, so we cannot support him.
For-profit companies don't care about patients or nursing--they care about profits.And they all share in common the fact that they absolutely hate unions. (more than most of our employers) Why? It is the union that seeks to hold them accountable. Let's support our fellow union members by pushing our government to support the financial transparency bill and by voting for a governor who is union-friendly.
Healthcare Reform and Staffing
It seems like every week new initiatives are created to address the challenges of healthcare reform and new Medicare guidelines are introduced--most, it seems, on the backs of nurses. We've seen a new emphasis on hourly rounding forms along with new charting in the EMR, "Four eyes in 4 hours," numerous core measure forms, and most recently, the AIDET "competency." Nurses were told they would be shadowed by managers and assistant managers to make sure they are scripting properly. (Incidentally, management assures us that this is all non-punitive so if you are disciplined in any way as a result of this form, let us know.)
More forms and protocols are added to the daily work of a nurse. Nurses must prevent "never" events. Nurses must document perfectly. Nurses must always smile and be cheerful and answer call bells immediately. Nurses must insure that we always get better H-CAPs. Since nurses are the direct caregivers, administrators believe that we should be the first and last line of defense.
But what about Virtua's responsibility to the nurses? What about Virtua's responsibility to the patient? If the employer wants to achieve positive outcomes, the workplace must be conducive to achieving this goal. Do we have adequate staffing? Do we have adequate support staff? Do we have managers and assistant managers who are supportive and helpful rather than punitive? Some units are understaffed. Some have little support staff. And some feel as if they are constantly being surveilled rather than provided with the help and support they need. In an environment where there is more work than ever and even attitude and facial expressions are now scrutinized, nurses must feel that managers will "have their backs." In a punitive environment, no one wins and no one functions at their best.
Inadequate staffing must be addressed. We have unsafe staffing forms and a staffing committee that presents these issues monthly. Please fill out these forms and leave them in the mailbox. If you wish to present an issue in the Staffing Committee, let us know. We will put you on the agenda.
It is irresponsible to leave units short staffed and expect that we will not have fall outs, never events and high HCAP scores. Short staffing handicaps nurses. It handicaps patients. Let's do something to hold management accountable.
May 23, 2013
There will be a local membership meeting on May 30 to discuss and vote on a contract change in response to the creation of a new Pediatric Pavilion.
Membership Meeting Regarding New Pediatric Pavillion
May 16, 2013
A new unit was created by combining Pediatrics and CAREs (the Pediatric ED) into the Pediatric Pavilion. Administration and the Union followed the contract (page 43 in the paragraph just below the Clinical Grouping section) to negotiate the new unit's placement in the Clinical Grouping and the reassignment guidelines.
We are also required to hold a ratification vote when we open the contract. These contract changes affect mainly the Pediatric, CAREs and SCN nurses but everyone who would like to vote is invited. Negotiated changes will be explained in detail.
Ratification votes do not allow for absentee ballots.
The meeting will be held May 30, 4:30 pm and 8:00 pm, at the Best Western Hotel, Route 541, Mt. Holly.
President's Message: How Changes in the Healthcare System Impact Nursing
February 25, 2013
In her President's Message for the latest of the newsletter, Debbie White explains how healthcare reform and other changes in the healthcare system are putting increasing stresses on RNs.
General Membership Meeting and Continuing Education Workshop
September 12, 2012
Local 5105 held a combined membership meeting and continuing education workshop (3.0 contact hours awarded) yesterday. It as a great success as over 100 Local 5105 RNs attended. Local 5105 President Debbie White commented: "We had a phenomenal turnout, the speaker was fantastic, and we received great feedback from members. The topic of documentation and protecting your license was relevant for the issues we face today as nurses."