Friday, May 22, 2015

A strong sense of purpose from "the bottom"

Melanie Evans at Modern Healthcare reports: "One of the nation's largest health systems, Ascension Health, will for the first time set a system-wide minimum wage of $11 an hour."

This is good and as it should be, but these folks are slow to have made these changes.

A decade ago, when I was CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, I made a decision that no one in our hospital should be paid less than $10 an hour.  There was no market-based reason to change their wages.  Other Boston academic medical centers were also paying their lowest paid workers--housekeepers, transporters, and food service workers--below $10 an hour.  I just thought it was wrong for a health care organization, particularly one with a faith-based heritage, to pay people so little.

Later in 2009, when the majority of people in the hospital made sacrifices and took pay and benefit freezes to help avoid layoffs during the  recession, we exempted those same low-wage earners from having to make any such sacrifices.

It's been my experience that hospital managers often forget about this group of vulnerable workers even though, as you think about it, they have more interactions with patients than anybody else in the hospital.  I always found them to represent the heart and soul of organization. As Gloria Martinez, one of our transporters, once said to me and our Board:

We view our job as providing the kind of care we would want for members of our own family.

Let's never forget that the "bottom of the organization" has just as strong a sense of purpose as those highly trained and better paid doctors and nurses! Our job, as hospital leaders, is to remember that and treat them with the caring and respect they deserve.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for reminding us of the importance of respect for all of the professionals who contribute to care. There is no job in healthcare that can not be an opportunity to make the world a better place.

Nina said...

And that is why I choose the BI to work at in 1985. I knew that if I did not find what I was looking for in acute care nursing at the BI. I wouldn't find it anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Paul, you were well ahead of your time in many of the good things you did for the hospital, and other places before that. As well as in many of the issues you write about in your column. Thanks for showing humanity and ethical clarity in how you treat people and address issues. It's a refreshing take amidst what has sadly become about the latest dollar and the latest glam headline.