NIH special meeting: ‘It’s about having a voice in patient care’

By Deb Murphy

Tuesday’s special meeting of the Northern Inyo Hospital board meeting started calmly enough, with a brief statement from the nurse’s union organizing committee spokesman and supportive comments from members of the medical staff.

NIH Sign

When the board came out of closed session, Board President M.C. Hubbard explained the meeting had been called so the board could learn what their role was in the newly-formed union. “The cards will be validated and nothing can be done until then. It will take about a month” before any negotiations can begin.

The process involves the cards signed by RNs, nurse practitioners and physician assistants vetted to confirm a majority support the union, part of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The fireworks didn’t start until the board opened the floor for final comments. In response to questions from Dr. Jennifer Scott, administrators went on the defensive. Chief Executive Officer Victoria Alexander-Lane and Chief Nursing Officer Kathy Decker both explained the steps they had taken to deal with financial issues and the caregivers’ concerns, respectively.

Blame for the communication disconnect between caregivers on the floor and administration appeared to be put on middle-management. In response, Maura Richman, a member of the organizing committee, said “we love our middle management. They’re just stressed.”

One of the issues referred to during the hour-long comment period was balancing nurse to patient ratios in the fluid dynamics of hospital care. Scott, an emergency room physician, explained the impact of pulling a nurse off ER duty to fill in elsewhere; a floor nurse described the stress of patient care when her shift was short a nurse’s assistant. “This is our reality,” she said.

NIH Sign

“The best nurses in our hospital are on the organizing committee,” said Scott. “We have to come together. There’s no ‘you,’ no ‘they’ or ‘middle management.’ I don’t believe this is about money, it’s about having a voice in patient care.”

Scott’s suggestion that the hospital “would be better served by a 360-degree review,” was not taken well by Decker or Lane. “We need feedback from the bottom to the top,” she said, “as well as from the top down.”

“We need to step back, take a breath and respect each other,” said Hubbard, ending the meeting.


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11 Responses to NIH special meeting: ‘It’s about having a voice in patient care’

  1. Vanessa February 11, 2015 at 9:34 pm #

    “We need to step back, take a breath and respect everyone,” would have been an appropriate reaction six months ago. Now it’s simply dismissive and trite.

  2. Eastern Sierra Local February 12, 2015 at 3:50 pm #

    I’ve been hearing a lot of “off the record” conversation from rank and file staff at the hospital about how the Board of Directors of NIH is completely out of touch with Staff and that it really began with the new Director they hired, there’s been a lot of unusual and nefarious terminations as of late; it’s no surprise that rank and file now want to organize; lets just hope it isn’t SEIU that’s behind it.

  3. Local Patient February 12, 2015 at 6:25 pm #

    As a local Hospital District resident, I’m glad to see the cost cutting measures in place. I can see how the staff would feel that management is out of touch, but honestly, the prices here are so high that I go to carson city for special services. If management can get prices down, I would reconsider using the Hospital. I’m sure staff is unhappy about not getting hours they use to under the previous management, but remember that previous management is the reason that services cost so much. Getting right sized and right priced hurts, but is the best in the long run. Thanks Board!

  4. Concerned Citizen February 13, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

    This is a very delicate issue for employees at the hospital who do not feel safe. These employees understand the need for cost cutting measures and are willing to help, but not at the cost of patient or employee safety. These employees have been bullied by the previous administration as well as the current administration and it is clear that these administrators nor the board does not want to take any responsibility for creating a hostile workplace. What is even more distressing is that the board did not hold John Halfen and his cronies accountable and they are not holding the current administrator accountable for a hostile workplace. I would encourage those who are member of the district to contact them board members ask them why they have continued to allow a hostile workplace. Hold this board accountable and remember that when these staff members are working under such difficult conditions they are more likely to make mistakes and these mistakes might not only cost the district significant they might cost ones health or worse yet someone’s life.

    M.C. Hubbard
    Zone V, Term Expires November 2018
    191 North School Street
    Big Pine, CA 93513
    760-938-2272 (Home)
    Retired Bank Manager

    Denise Hayden.
    Zone II, Term Expires November 2016
    1631 S. Valley View Drive
    Bishop, CA 93514
    760-873-3901 (Home)
    Executive Assistant, County of Inyo

    D. Scott Clark, M.D.
    Zone IV, Term Expires November 2016
    152 Pioneer Lane, Suite G
    Bishop, CA 93514
    760-872-2244 (Work)
    Physician and Surgeon

    Peter J. Watercott
    Zone III, Term Expires November 2018
    237 Willow Street
    Bishop, CA 93514
    760-873-4616 (Home)
    Retired Food Service Supervisor, Inyo Mono Agency on Aging

    John A. Ungersma, M.D.
    Zone I, Term Expires November 2016
    590 Rocking K Road
    Bishop, CA 93514
    760-873-6034 (Home)
    Retired Naval Officer;
    Retired Orthopaedic Surgeon

    Victoria Alexander-Lane
    150 Pioneer Lane
    Bishop, CA 93514
    760-873-2838 (Work)

  5. susan dews February 13, 2015 at 2:53 pm #

    Hubbard needs to step up, not back, If the hospital has money problems it’s the fault of the board not past administrations, As to the nurses, tyranny happens when good men (and women !) stand by and do nothing. These are the kind of people I want at my bedside if or when I ever get sick.

  6. Reality February 13, 2015 at 7:09 pm #

    Sounds like the disgruntled employees need to move out or on to another job. There are plenty of other folks that would be grateful to have your job.

    • Pedro February 15, 2015 at 7:10 pm #

      Reality is most people talking smack about others haven’t got off the couch to educate themselves or fill an application.

    • Charles O. Jones February 17, 2015 at 10:48 am #

      If what you say is true, why is the hospital in a constant state of recruitment?

  7. Ickity February 14, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

    One of the main issues that the nurses are not happy with is when they are called off if there is more staff than needed. They are sent home. They do not like this and they want that practice to stop.

  8. Reality Check February 16, 2015 at 8:58 pm #

    Being called off when there is more staff then needed? Sounds completely reasonable to me. Why should the hospital have to pay employees if they aren’t needed? Must be a union mentality you have there…I’m not sure what kind of business sense you have, but that kind of practice isn’t sustainable

    • Charles O. Jones February 17, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

      It might not sound completely reasonable if it were you or your family member that has their nurse sent home and another nurse who is caring for other patients is abruptly asked to take over care. Plus, just like selling widgets on Main Street, hospitals can have unpredictable surges in activity. But unlike selling widgets on Main Street, when a customer doesn’t get the timely care they need, it can lead to devastating consequences. I would put greater stock in the nurses being the best advocates for the patients – not the CEO.

      Healthcare is like public safety in some respects. Do we send the cops home if no one calls 911 for a few minutes?


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