A reporter recently contacted me about an article on the split between Highlands Hospital in Connellsville, Pa., and Frick Hospital in nearby Mount Pleasant, Pa. (May 8, p. 2). Although I realize that information had to be consolidated, I believe how labor views this "divorce" is important.
From the collective bargaining point of view, employees, community members and sometimes patients have been at the forefront of what has become the current state of healthcare. Doctors are forced by HMOs to see more patients but spend less and less time with them and forced to choose between hospitalizing patients or getting a better payment by coming in under their quota. There are minicartels of healthcare providers, whose main purpose should not be that of governance but of a "union," which will have a greater chance of negotiating better contracts with HMOs and for purchasing supplies. The final option seems to be that of specialization--"Tonsillectomies R Us"--at the expense of our community's health.
The healthcare industry must be proactive instead of reactive. Although many wish we could go back to the 1970s' cost reimbursement method, it is time to realize that is no longer an option. Providers must focus on customer service, information technology and restructuring of the management/labor pyramid. Our communities and its leaders must force our government to keep its promise of healthcare to all instead of just giving the appearance of support.
It is essential that we band together against the mighty insurance industry and demand our rights as healthcare givers so that we can thrive. It comes down to whether we are willing to adopt commonly held bargaining unit methods of creating a better environment for all or if we are just willing to stand in the middle of the road and be run over.
Regarding the two hospitals' divorce, the true intent of the merger was domination of our hospital, not to partner to combat the above issues or the so-called figures on the bottom line, and that is why it failed.
American Federation of State, County
and Municipal Employees local No. 2340