Back from the Hospital and Good News from California
BACK FROM THE HOSPITAL:
If you read Monday’s Ekos-Squared Post you know that I went to the cardiology department of Washington Hospital Center (WHC) to get a diagnosis on my irregular heart beat – one that goes array periodically. Recently I’ve experienced tiredness and shortness of breath during vigorous workouts. My cardiologist suspects that this “arrhythmia” may be the source of the problem. Thus, Wednesday’s trip to the hospital for an electro-physiological (EP) test.
The results: The test confirmed that there is a significant irregularity – the sinus node which is the normal initiator of signals to the heart is often asleep at the switch. However, there is a backup system called the AV node which normally takes over when the sinus node fails to function.
Good news, the AV backup did do its job during the test. This means that my condition is not life threatening or urgent. Ekos-Squared Lives. The question remaining is whether the backup will do the needed job during vigorous exercise – treadmill and walking for body and soul. The answer will determine whether the docs will recommend a pacemaker. So in about ten days I will back to Washington Hospital Center (WHC) for a running stress test with about a dozen wires connected to my torso.
The Hospital and Nurses: In the November 1 post I featured the National Nurses United (NNU) campaign to preserve the wages and benefits at WHC. So I checked things out by talking to a number of nurses and administrative staff at the WHC. First, I the care I got was on the whole excellent. The nurses, technicians and others who helped me did their jobs exceptionally well and with cheerful “bedside manners.” Nor did I have to wait long to get what I needed. It’s clear that the staffers take their jobs very seriously and work very hard. However, several nurses did express concerns regarding under-staffing and other issues and the situation may get worse in the near-term future.
One of the key issues at stake is called “differentials.” A differential is essentially extra pay that a nurse gets if he or she works the night shift or has a position that is more stressful (e.g. emergency room detail). Starting in January the differential will be replaced with a flat rate for all nurses. This will mean that a number of nurses who have been on differentials on a regular basis will experience significant reductions in pay — especially those who have served in their positions for many years. You can also hear and see the nurses tell their own story and see recent Washington Post article on the conflict– click here.
Some of the information on the NNU website illustrates why nurses at WHC are protesting the Hospital’s decision to impose flat rates starting in January. For example, certain nurses with 10 years of experience who currently make $60,377 per year would have their annual pay slashed by $6,775.60. Veteran nurses with longer tenures would experience even larger cuts.
Necessary budget cuts? I spoke to an administrator at the hospital who said that the change was necessary for the overall wellbeing of the hospital. That many nurses — presumably those with less experience — would have higher salaries. However, its hard for me to reconcile this argument with the obvious need to keep the most experienced staff . The NNU website reports that the turnover rate for nurses is already high. It’s not hard to see why Nurses United have called for a one day strike to protest the Hospital’s unilateral action (WHC administrators have refused to return to the bargaining table). The strike vote will take place over the next few days and we’ll report on the outcome.
As I said previously, I felt the care I got at the hospital was very good. U.S. News & World Report Washington named Hospital Center as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” in 2010. The magazine ranked WHC for excellence in three specialties: heart and heart surgery ranked at 19, diabetes and endocrinology at 16 and gynecology program at No. 40. However, the level of patient care and the good reputation of the WHC may suffer if the top administrators go through with its plan to punish the very professionals who’ve been a huge part of the hospital’s success.
CALIFORNIA VOTERS REJECT PROPOSITION 23 — REINFORCE STATE’S GREEN ENERGY PROGRAM:
The election news is not all bad; Oft-times what happens in California is a look into the future for the nation. In California voters overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 23, ballot initiative that would have scrapped the state’s landmark legislation requiring that state greenhouse gas emission levels be lowered to 1990 levels by 2020. Big oil companies just can’t stand the competition. The victory hailed by wind and solar companies and environmentalists came despite millions spent by big fossil fuel companies led by Texas oil giants Valero and Tesoro, sought to suspend California’s AB 32. See NY Times Editorial. 61 % of the voters rejected Prop 23!
The NY Times Editorial said it very well: “… politicians in Washington — who have made no progress on climate change and clean energy — should take a lesson from the pro-AB 32 campaign. Supporting clean energy is not only essential for the environment and good for the economy. When voters have the facts, it can also be a political winner.”