A Message from Nancy Bucher, RN, MSN, NEA-BC
My grandmother frequently spoke of the Great Depression and the personal struggles that so many people faced. Like most people, I thought a financial catastrophe of that magnitude could never repeat itself. Well, the 2008 financial markets proved me wrong. Hospitals, usually immune to market factors, are now facing the most difficult challenges of this century.
As an organization, Crozer-Keystone Health System is facing declining investment values, diminishing revenues, less inpatient and outpatient volume coupled with growing numbers of unemployed, uninsured patients.
In a normal economy, our health system would receive state subsidies for indigent care, trauma and burn program stabilization, and high-risk pregnancy care. Like most states, Pennsylvania is facing many economic challenges, and it is highly unlikely that state budget funding will make up the difference in these traditional care areas. Fear of job loss or debt accumulation has forced individuals to postpone elective surgeries and tests. Many unemployed patients have turned to low premium insurance plans with deductibles as high as $5,000 to $10,000. Needless to say, our hospitals frequently do not receive these deductibles.
As a non-profit health system and the largest employer in Delaware County, we have many responsibilities to consider. Living up to our mission to provide quality, accessible healthcare to the communities we serve and providing our 7,000-plus employees with a stable work environment has generated the need to make some very difficult decisions. During 2005 and 2006, we significantly grew the size of our workforce. Admissions, patient days, elective work and our outpatient business had grown and we increased our workforce to meet the growing need for care. Fast forward to 2008 and note the decline in the aforementioned volumes. Like most large employers, we have been forced to decrease the size of our total workforce. The reductions are system-wide and have affected all levels of personnel including vice presidents, managers, nurses, physicians and service workers. I am personally saddened by the loss of all of our employees and hope the economic tides change quickly and we can recall our valued nurse colleagues.
Like most Americans, I listened intently as our new president gave his inaugural address in January. I was particularly inspired when President Obama said “On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for too long have strangled our politics.”
I find our president’s words particularly poignant and applicable to the challenges our health system faces. I encourage all of you to be hopeful not fearful, to concentrate on pulling together and unifying to fulfill our mission of quality nursing care to our patients. We need to support each other in these difficult times and put aside our fear and anger. As a strong, unified group of nursing professionals, we can weather this storm, and while the economy recovers and our business improves we must never lose sight of our most important objective – excellent patient care.