Sunday, December 14, 2008

More seriously now

I have poked a little light-hearted fun at the SEIU's current corporate campaign against BIDMC, but there are those who feel strongly about this campaign and are deeply offended by it. In addition to our staff, it also includes patients of the hospital. One, Mike Scanlon, has written this blog posting on the topic. Mike had previously written me a personal note, and when I asked his permission to post excerpts here, leaving out his name he said, "Please feel free to use what ever part you would like. As for as leaving out my name or identifying information do not concern yourself. One of my complaints about this so called campaign is its anonymity, which I think is a coward's refuge. It would also please me very much for the hundreds of staff members who have literally kept me alive over the last 8 years to know that I am not afraid to testify to their skill and compassion."

Here are some excerpts from his blog:

The billboards I have seen cast aspersions on the hospital that I know to be false and inappropriate from my personal experience. After some exploration I discover that this is an attempt to unionize the hospital, but the advertising does not say anything obvious about that issue. Questions such as who it is that wants to unionize, what group they represent, what ills might result from the lack of unions, or what dialogue is taking place between the unions and the hospital administration are not raised by the advertising.

I can see no constructive agenda which approaches the issue of unionization, and as an observer on the street I don't even know who is making these accusations or why. Add to these facts that it is only the "Jewish" hospital that is being targeted and the only conclusion I can draw is that even if this group is trying to accomplish something valid it is playing subtly on age old prejudices about Jews and money rather than presenting their position in a cogent and fair manner. This is very destructive and insults the good intentions of labor as a movement in general- a movement deeply indebted to Jews, by the way.

Why does all this matter to me? Because I, Irish Christian that I am, have been a patient at Beth Israel for years.... I came down with AIDS in 2001, and at the time had Tufts Premium health insurance. By 2003 my partner, Aramis Valverde (AKA Mad Genius)- a cuban catholic- had been unable to work for many months, had not been able to keep up his health insurance, and we found ourselves in a terrifying position. We went to the Beth Israel emergency room hat in hand, and were welcomed, immediately cared for, admitted to the hospital (for the first of three times) and the staff at Beth Israel not only cared for him in a stellar fashion, but they also treated me- who at the time had no legal standing- with a degree of compassion and respect that was truly moving. There was no talk of money and payment, except in this respect, that the hospital's social workers went into high gear to negotiate with Masshealth and Medicare to find what funds they could on Aramis's behalf, but the care they gave him was never contingent upon these efforts- and their message to me was not to worry, whatever the circumstances my partner would have the highest quality care, even if it was at the hospital's expense, and I assure you he did.

In the year following Aramis's death I found myself in the same position.... The care I received as a "Free Care" patient was identical to what I had received as a Tufts Premium member, and once again, not only the care, but the respect and compassion that the staff of the hospital extended, and continues to extend to me is truly amazing, not least the social workers who deal with the byzantine of the health care system.

I have personalized this because unlike the folks running the "Eye on the BI campaign" I want you to know exactly what my agenda is. I am a sixty year old Christian who has nursed a partner through through death from AIDS and been saved from the same fate the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center over the last few years. I am angered by the "Eye on the B.I." campaign not just because they attack an institution to which I owe my life, but because they are doing it in an underhanded, destructive, and malicious way.


Adam Gobin said...

I think this shows the amazing patient and family centered care that BIDMC is so very good at. I am glad that patients feel free to voice their opinions, this is fantastic!

Anonymous said...

Well said by one who counts - a patient.


Anonymous said...

It's really saddening that SEIU would use these sorts of tactics. I wonder how the openness of management using blogs and other communications will effect this outcome though. It seems like most management is much more isolated, which I think causes them to become dehumanized.

I'm from Texas, so don't have much experience with unions (ha) but this "neutrality" sounds ridiculous. There is a decision, and people should hear all sides of the debate.

Anonymous said...

This is what hospital based care is supposed to be about. Thank you for sharing your story.

e-Patient Dave said...

My story isn't nearly as dramatic as Mike Scanlon's, but I've said here and on my own blog that what SEIU says is completely counter to my own experience.

Apologies for this long comment but I'm pretty tired of seeing what I think is a corrupt and dishonest union wasting the time and energy of a GOOD employer, diverting the organization from the good work it's doing.

I've said that I'm pro-organized labor, and SEIU gives the movement a bad name. Last January on my own blog I recalled an earlier commenter here, who said:

"The initial cause for unions was to avoid worker exploitation and unsafe working environments. I don’t see this happening at BIDMC. If a Hospital or business provides a good safe place to work with decent benefits and livable wages for all its employees than there is no need for union intervention. That being said I do feel there are still places of business that could use a union…Maybe the SEIU should be looking at Wal*Mart????"

I remarked: "I couldn't agree more. I wonder why on earth they're not doing that. Consider Nike, which in 2003 went to court to claim the right to lie about whether they'd cleaned up their sweatshops." To me that would be an employer worth pursuing. Another example is Fox going to court to win the right to fire investigative reporters who would NOT lie about rBGH, as told in Into the Buzzsaw.

From what I see here, BIDMC is the polar opposite of that kind of employer. And I've checked; during my occasional visits I've sometimes played "secret shopper" to see what employees had to say about working here, and it's always been 100% positive.

I really wonder, who's behind prioritizing an attack on THIS employer? Of all the hospitals in the northeast, why this one?

I'm starting to wonder, are there political power play talks going on here, like the one the FBI investigated with Blagojevich? Should the FBI be looking into SEIU in Boston?

Anonymous said...

And look at this:,0,6257988.story

Unknown said...

Can we start a website titled "Eye on SEIU?" We can get people to anonymously post obscure "personal" stories about their dealings with the SEIU. I bet that would be like stirring up an ants' nest of lawsuits and requests for the anonymous poster's identities.

I bet they can dish it, but can't take it.

Anonymous said...

michael, thank you for sharing your story. I hope you will continue to feel well for a long time to come.
I actually just got out of a unionized community hospital after emergency surgery and a second admission a few days later for complications. As a nurse (32 years) I have read with great interest Paul's take on the SEIU situation. I am not a fan of nursing unions, but could never articulate why until this experience. It is my feeling that the union keeps really good nurses from advancing and gives the nurses who could care less something to hide behind. Having experienced both types over the last two weeks, give me a hospital like the BID any day. Keep up your good work!

Unknown said...

Hmmm....I wonder who is controlling

Anonymous said...

Sounds like they need their own internal ethics probe:

Anonymous said...

It looks like the card check bill may be dead for now..........

David M. Erani, M.D. said...

I'd like to echo Mr. Scanlon's sentiment. I served as a fellow at BIDMC. Patients were all given the same excellent care regardless of their financial status.

This was different from other hospitals where I've worked. In other hospitals, all received excellent medical care, but there was always a distinction between "private" and "ward" patients.

KevinB said...


My name is Kevin Brumett. I have been a patient at BIDMC since I was diagnosed with Non-Small Cell Large Cell Carcinoma in August of 2007 at the age of 29. If you want to get into religion, I am a Roman Catholic. If you want to get into MLB baseball, I am a New York Yankees fan and yet I still chose to come to Beth Israel, the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. I went for a second opinion and third opinion of my diagnosis to Dana Farber and Memorial Sloan-Kettering, but I chose to remain at Beth Israel because of the level of care and compassion that I have received from not only my doctors, but all of the medical professionals that I have encountered.

SEIU is a joke. I have worked with many different unions in the past while working in politics in Connecticut. SEIU being one of them along with the Carpenters union, Correction Officer Union and many others. I agree with all of the previous comments indicating that the approach that SEIU has taken is not only unprofessional, but it is contrived.

I don't even want to acknowledge SEIU's actions because that gives them more power than what they are worth.

On the complete other end of the spectrum is Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. BIDMC has given me hope in combating this disease and has given me the opportunity to advocate on behalf of other patients who are also fighting lung cancer. Like Mike Scanlon, I owe Beth Israel my life. I'm proud that I'm a patient at Beth Israel and anyone who speaks negatively about the hospital, I'll have some words to say to them.

Kevin Brumett