Thursday, June 15, 2017

An open letter to University of Utah Health Care vis-à-vis Vivian Lee.

Recently my wife and I where at your facility for a brief period following the birth of our son. I would like to share my thoughts and observations.

First – this is our third time doing such a stay in a maternity unit but our first at University Hospital. Our first two were at an outstanding facility in Scottsdale, Arizona. I really can’t say enough about the great medical professionals and facility – for both births we had an amazing experience. You could tell that not only did the floor have the staff they needed but they also had the resources they needed. Questions were answered and requests came within minutes. Every inch of the hospital was clean and in good repair. The cafeteria had good food at a great price.

That was what we were expecting for our most recent stay – we were disappointed.

We arrived before valet service opened for the day and parked in the garage. From the outset, I got the feeling that things were unfinished. The garage was dirty with obvious neglect but as soon as we left the garage and walked for the front entrance (dodging a large fleet of errant wheelchairs), things became polished. The valet area and lobby were spotless and bright – a sharp contrast. Immediate areas off the main lobby were the same; clean with furnishings in new condition. Upstairs was much the same directly off the elevator was polished but then I noticed the same thing, a sharp contrast as we stepped away from the high traffic area. The lighting and mood and entire feel of the area changed. Walking into the triage area we had the sense that we were walking back in time – to two weeks ago when the floors were last cleaned (visible dust in corners on handrails etc.) and two decades ago when the décor was last refreshed.

The saving grace was the staff. All were happy and bright and efficient. They made us feel welcome and confident. They had obviously found that balance of not enough (leaving us feeling worried) and too much (leaving us feeling like they were wasting time). During our entire stay, we had nothing but amazing experiences with every staff member we encountered.

Now back to the facility.

Something I found interesting was the copious amounts of clutter in basically every hallway. If it wasn’t such a hassle it would have been fun zig-zagging around the beds and wheel chairs and vital signs stands strewn about. After navigating to our room, we settled in and soon had the first of a series of physicians and nurses visiting and updating. When time came, my wife’s bed was rolled out of the room and in almost Monty Python fashion was halted as beds and carts had to be shuffled on the way to the OR. Everything went great, baby was born, sutures done but on the way back out of the OR they again had to stop and re-position beds for us to get out. That pattern was again repeated when entering the room on the L&D floor, a bed right outside the door had to be moved for us to enter.

While my wife was focused on recovering I had slightly more idle time. I did what I could but there were still hours with nothing to do – mom and baby both sleeping – so why not quietly watch TV? That would be great except the only source of sound was the remote call button attached to the wall across my wife. For me to hear the TV in any volume I had to be literally right next to my wife – whom I was trying help get rest. So TV was out. I began walking the halls and that was when more of the neglect began to show through. I found paper towel dispensers with broken housings, empty soap and toilet paper holders and that just added to the clutter I found in almost every corner of the hospital. Everywhere I went I found beds and wheel chairs haphazardly placed in the halls.
The cafeteria – again the staff was great – and obviously cared enough to keep the food serving area basically spotless, but the prices – I get a better deal at movie theaters. A basic breakfast the first day cost over $10, lunch and dinner were over $12. Our budget couldn't handle it so day two was a small bowl of fruit and a bottle of water – still over $6.

So what? This all ties back to one person – you, Vivian Lee. Recently making news for your brash dismissal then forced reinstatement of HCI CEO Mary Beckerle. You subsequently resigned and on your way out some praised your leadership. They couldn’t be more wrong.

The problems I found at University Hospital come down to one thing – a lack of long-term focus. You were not directly responsible for the dilapidated state of the hospital but you were directly responsible for basically every contributing factor. You prioritized bringing in star talent through $$$ instead of developing a world-renowned facility and having them come to us. You prioritized the surface and highly visible at the cost of the whole. You put on a fancy door and were letting the foundation crumble around it. Now you are thinking “how am I responsible for broken paper towel dispensers?” – your leadership led to unwise cost cutting. Your desire to cut costs at every possible turn resulted in one of two things; either you (or your subordinates) were unwilling to hire and retain a facilities manager with the necessary skills or that manager was hobbled by budget constraints. Either way – it was lipstick on a pig. Either way your "vision" was to cross the finish line of a marathon while ignoring the first 26 miles.

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