Low morale and other employee issues were the main topics of discussion at the Gov. Juan Luis Hospital board meeting Wednesday evening.
Acting Human Resources Chief Valdemar Hill said an employee satisfaction survey was conducted recently with 66 employees, or around 10 percent of the staff, responding.
Hill said that, generally speaking, employees like what they do, believe they are underpaid and that there is not enough room for upward mobility.
“The results came out pretty well but that doesn’t coincide with what I am hearing on the phone or through email,” said Troy de Chabert-Schuster, board chairman, adding that the lack of opportunities for advancement has been an issue for quite some time.
Board member Vera Falu agreed and said the survey was “totally inconsistent” with staff feedback she has received.
Falu talked about two nurses who recently left the hospital “totally incensed.” Both were 15-year employees who quit JFL without jobs lined up due to the hostile working environment created by their supervisors, Falu said, adding that the nurses said they were not offered exit interviews.
When asked about exit interviews, Hill acknowledged there have been none, to his knowledge, since he took over Human Resources.
De Chabert-Schuster said the board wants exit interviews conducted in the future with employees who resign.
According to Hill, the problem with morale lies with management and lack of training.
Philip Arcidi, board treasurer, said there has been “a lot of money expended for training with no benefits” in the two and a half years he has been involved with JFL. He said he wondered how to get the “best bang for the buck.”
Hill said he has begun staff training programs and told Arcidi in-house training is better than hiring an outside firm because he will be able to follow up and monitor results. Hill said he also may begin applicant testing to confirm employees have the skills they say they do.
De Chabert-Schuster said graduate nurses being hired lack training to step into the job and need additional training at the hospital.
Several board members said employees have told them they are not comfortable speaking out and are afraid of retaliation.
Richard Evangelista, acting chief executive officer, said, “We must build an atmosphere of trust. If they don’t get a response, move up” the chain of command, he said.
Evangelista invited the board and staff to direct employees to him if their complaints are not dealt with.
“Anyone who has come to my door, we have solved their issue,” he said.
Dr. Raymond Cintron, acting chief medical officer, also reported employee problems. He said physicians are constantly needed and currently the lack of a physician caused a higher than usual number of patients to leave the ER without being seen.
Additionally a number of surgeries were canceled because there was only one anesthesiologist and a malfunction slowed down the steam sterilizer. And some physicians go on vacation or take military leave without providing notice, leaving the hospital short-staffed.
De Chabert-Schuster said, “That angers me to the core, holding the health care of people hostage.”
Several board members agreed that medical staff who take leave without notice should be released from their duties. No motions were made on the matter.
Also during the meeting, Tim Lessing, chief financial officer, and Arcidi reported on finances. Because the patient census dropped the last few months, income also declined, Lessing said.
Gross revenue was down 8 percent at $12.2 million compared to the budgeted $13.3. Expenses were higher at $6.2 million but, after government appropriations, the hospital reported a bottom line gain of $125,000.
Evangelista updated the board about the drain problem that closed the cafeteria and said food service has been moved to the Herbert Grigg Home for the Aged until it is fixed. The water leak in the hemodialysis department has been stopped and the unit is running better than ever, he said.
Fourteen new employees started work in August, Evangelista said. New staff included seven registered nurses, three certified medical assistants, a surgical technologist, a hemodialysis technician, an exercise physiologist and a biomedical technician.
During executive session, the board confirmed Cintron as chief medical officer with a salary of $195,000. The board also approved Hill as HR chief at a salary of $105,000.
Candidates are still being reviewed for chief executive officer and chief nursing officer, de Chabert-Schuster said., adding there is “work to do” before making a decision.
Board members present at the meeting were de Chabert-Schuster, Falu and Arcidi. Theresa Frorup-Alie and Aracelis de Hendry-Walcott were absent.