UPMC going against its stated mission

Does UPMC mean what it says?

“Putting our patients, health plan members, employees and community at the center of everything we do and creating a model that ensures that every patient gets the right care, in the right way, at the right time, every time.”

That’s a direct quote from the UPMC website.

Make no mistake, healthcare is a business. Since the inception of the Affordable Care Act, hospitals have been penalized for high re-admission rates. Hospitals had 1 percent of their Medicare reimbursement taken.

Hospitals can recoup some of the money with high patient satisfaction scores. Hospitals nationwide have been doing everything they can to improve their patient satisfaction scores, and therefore their reimbursement.

Hospitals have consulted the hotel industry, placed baby grand pianos in their lobbies, provided customer service training, and have even hired service-oriented clinical staff over skilled clinical staff.

They have initiated “no pass call bell zones,” incentivized physicians for high scores, and attempted to foster a customer service mentality. Your nurse may have to attempt your IV three times, but she’ll do it with a smile.

However, hospitals have missed the boat. In their “shiny ball syndrome” attempt to increase the elusive high satisfaction scores, they have forgotten one important fact – satisfied staff will, in turn, translate into satisfied patients.

You do not need a research study, or a degree in rocket science, to know that if you have staff that feels valued and appreciated, they will be more productive and engaged. When you have staff that feel secure in their jobs (wages, benefits, safe staffing ratios, etc.) they can focus on their patients.

I then ask, how can UPMC advertise on their website that they put the patients and employees at the center of everything they do?

Nurses are always concerned with patient safety. We are required to be patient advocates.

However, UPMC is attempting to have what they call “flexible staffing.”

What this means is the hospital would have the right to assign as many patients as they feel appropriate (“at the discretion of the hospital”) to a nurse.

To me, this is at odds with not only their advertised mission, but also with patient safety and satisfaction.

Without safe staffing guidelines, patients will be placed at risk. Errors will occur. Nurses will be expected to perform at an unrealistic level. Nurses will expected to have more patients. This means a longer wait for your pain medication, a longer wait for assistance, a longer wait for discharge, etc. This means less time to explain new medications or discharge instructions.

All of these would also translate into lower satisfaction scores.

Nurses will be faced with decisions such as having time to turn a patient to prevent bedsores or administering medications to all their assigned patients. This is essentially choosing the good of all over the care of one.

Although UPMC has no control over the Affordable Care Act requirements, they do have a choice to invest in and value their “employees.”

UPMC Altoona nurses are fighting for our community, patient safety and satisfaction. We, as nurses, want to take care of you, the patient, without the worry of unsafe staffing.

Michele Gonsman,