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NIH names Flanigan acting CEO

Bishop Hospital Board names Dr. Flanigan CEO

Just days after parting ways with Victoria Alexander-Lane the Northern Inyo Hospital Board named Dr. Kevin Flanigan acting Chief Executive Officer.  Dr. Flanigan had served as Chief Medical, Operations, and Information officer at NIH.  Dr. Flanigan replaces Alexander-Lane who employment ended Monday afternoon with a short statement released by Northern Inyo Hospital.

“Ms. Alexander-Lane’s employment as the Chief Executive Officer of Northern Inyo Healthcare District has ended effective immediately. The Board thanks her for her contributions over the last eighteen months and wishes her well in her future career. The District and Ms. Alexander-Lane have agreed to make no further statement regarding her employment and the ending of her employment.”

Dr. Flanigan recently moved to Bishop from Pittsfield Maine.  Dr. Flanigan began his post at Northern Inyo in late August.

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Nurses Union Files charges, NIH responds

Nurses File Charges Against Northern Inyo

Statement from the Negotiating Committee:

Northern Inyo Hospital Nurses represented  by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) have filed Unfair Practice Charges with the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), demanding that the Hospital District bargain in good faith over Grievance and Progressive Discipline. Registered Nurses have repeatedly stated that their primary goal is to re-­‐establish a fair and supportive environment for caregivers.
“We are doing this to maintain  the are and safety of our patients, to
retain experienced staff and nurture new nurses in a safe culture, to
be involved in NIH’s financial stability, and to support the  other
employees at the hospital who are part of our team,” explains the
Organizing Committee’s initial statement. After filing with PERB on
February 2, the Nurses’ Union was formally recognized on March
17, held Negotiating Committee elections on March 26, began
collecting Bargaining Surveys,  and engaged in the formal bargaining
process by initially meeting with the District on March 31. Bargaining Surveys showed overwhelmingly that a fair Grievance Procedure and the District’s Medical Leave Policies are of great
concern to nurses.  These  policies are linked because of the District’s practice of terminating sick employees after just 16
weeks of Leave. Most employers, and particularly Hospitals,
give significantly longer unpaid leaves, enabling employees
to return to their positions upon recovery.
“One nurse gave over 25 years of service to this hospital, got cancer and was separated,” explains Laurie Archer, a Recovery Room Nurse and member of the Nurse Negotiating Team. “The District’s current Medical Leave policy is inhumane, unrealistic, and does not support the retention of skilled caregivers for this community. ”
In April, the Hospital District’s Board of Directors changed  the Hospital’s Grievance policy by eliminating the Board of Directors
as the final decision makers in any termination appeal, and delegating the final determination to Hospital CEO Victoria Lane.
Since during bargaining it is unlawful for the  District to make changes for Registered Nurses without first bargaining with the
Union, Nurses understood this change would not apply to them.
Nurses attended the Board meeting, however, to support unrepresented employees, and, along with other employees, called
on the Board of Directors not to proceed with this change. After the
Board passed the policy in spite of these appeals, NIH Administration informed Union leaders  that it would be implemented for all employees, including Registered Nurses. Nurses
informed the District  that this change was unlawful during the  bargaining process. The Union did not decide to file charges, however, until the District went even further, informing the Nurse
Negotiating Committee on May 22 that it would not be bargaining
over Grievance or Discipline in Union Negotiations. Since just cause
discipline and a fair  grievance procedure are among the most important elements  of any Union contract, it’s difficult to imagine a
more flagrant sign of bad faith. The PERB Charge also asserts  that NIH has been unlawfully removing Union notices from hospital break rooms while leaving other non-­‐work related notices up on bulletin boards. This is the second set of PERB Unfair Practice Charges nurses have had to file against Northern Inyo Hospital. The
first Charge was filed while they were completing the organizing process in early  February, after CEO Victoria Alexander-­‐Lane
sent an email to employees alerting them to language in their
Retirement Plan that could  exclude unionized employees from
the Plan. The Union asserted that  the email, and  the Plan itself,
were threatening and discriminatory,  making them unlawful under
California Labor Law. In response to the Charge, the Hospital District amended its Plan to make it possible for Union employees
to bargain the Plan into their contract, and notified NIH Employees
that it had done so. Since  the Hospital District  had only recently settled the retirement related charges, nurses were shocked that
the District almost immediately proceeded to commit further violations, potentially triggering another expensive legal battle.
“We’re concerned that the District may be using valuable public resources to fight its Registered Nurses, when we should all be working together to resolve these  issues and focus on continuing
to provide the best possible patient care to our community,” says
Nurse Negotiator and 2013 Daisy Award Winner Chris Hanley,
“We call on the District to demonstrate its good faith, by agreeing
to a fair contract with its nurses.”

Northern Inyo Hospitals response

Northern Inyo Hospital remains committed to bargaining in good faith with the NIH nurses represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). NIH is making every effort to be fair to all parties involved while keeping its commitment to the community to provide quality health care at reasonable rates.
NIH reduced the rate of many services in an effort to bring a balance to health care in Inyo County, and will not apologize for placing the needs of its patients and the community it serves at the forefront. NIH’s RN pay scale range is $33.72 to $48.41/hour, or roughly $70,000 to $100,000 annually. RNs who work from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. earn an additional 8 percent shift differential, while those who work 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. earn an additional 25 percent.
In the long run, NIH is looking to preserve hospital service for this community. NIH must adapt how we provide services in order to meet modern patient needs.
To date, NIH has paid $56,000 for legal consultation in regards to the unionization. It is typical for both sides of any union negotiation to have legal counsel. However, NIH would rather see this money used to improve patient services.
Specific points about NIH Medical Leave:
NIH voluntarily goes above and beyond the 12 week Federal Medical Leave Act minimum with an additional four weeks of protected leave. A 2012 U.S. Department of Labor statistics report more than 70 percent of employees taking FMLA leave were back at work within 40 days. Only women who took leave to care for a new child took longer leaves.
Additionally, NIH employees may use any Paid Time Off (PTO) they have coming, plus other available resources, including the opportunity to have co-workers donate PTO hours to the employee.
After FMLA is exhausted, the medical condition is protected under Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, the hospital has the right to not accommodate an extended medical leave because of an undue hardship to the hospital and a specific department.
In the last two years, there have been three instances where an employee was separated from NIH due to medical issues. One was separated after 23 weeks, one after 20 weeks and one after 16 weeks.
It is shameful that the RNs would accuse the District and its Board of Directors of being uncaring and inhumane. When faced with making needed changes, the Board stepped up, researched solutions and sought input from stakeholders. Their priority is the greater good of this community.
Specific points about NIH Grievance Policy:
NIH was the only District Hospital in the State of California where employees could appeal grievances to the Board of Directors. It would not be fair to non-union employees to have one grievance policy for union members, and another for everyone else. NIH is committed to a fair and just grievance procedure for all employees, and we are committed to assuring the nurses a fair process.
Northern Inyo Hospital remains committed to providing quality of care for its community. Should anyone have concerns about the quality of care received, please contact Maria Sirois, Chief Performance Excellence Officer, at (760) 873-5811 or maria.sirois@nih.org.

cover photo, Lynn Greer and Becky Taylor lead a “community meeting” discussing NIH.

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NIH honors Nurse Dianne Stevens

NIH honors Dianne Stevens

Northern Inyo Hospital kicked off National Nurses week with an awards presentation Wednesday morning. Hospital staff and management started the day with the presentation of the Daisy Award, which honors extraordinary nurses. This years winner is emergency room nurse, Dianne Stevens. Stevens was caught off guard by the award, as she though she was attending a routine safety meeting, only to be pushed into the spotlight as the Daisy Award winner. A very gracious Stevens accepted the award in front of a large gathering of co-workers, saying, “I think its outstanding to be recognized, but like my manager said, I think every nurse has the potential to be a Daisy Nurse.”
This is the 4th year of the Daisy award at Northern Inyo Hospital, previous winners include, Christine Hanley (2012), Joey Zappia (2013), and Deborah Earls (2014). Stevens was humble in joining the ranks of NIH Daisey Nurses. Stevens, a emergency room nurse stresses two key qualities in providing quality care, “Teamwork and communication. But we would not have that unless we have our patients who obviously believe in us to give good quality care and make a differences in their recovery.”
Both NIH CEO Victoria Alexander Lane and Chief Nursing Officer Kathy Decker praised not only Stevens but all the nurses at NIH for their extraordinary level of care.
Congratulations to Dianne Stevens, NIH Daisy Award winner.

Dianne Stevens and Kathy Decker. Photo provided by NIH
Dianne Stevens and Kathy Decker. Photo provided by NIH
award presentation at NIH lobby, photo by Arnie Palu
award presentation at NIH lobby
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Packed House at NIH meeting

Full room, tough talk at NIH board meeting

The great room at the Jill Kinmont Boothe school was full for last nights meeting of the Northern Inyo Hospital Board. The regular meeting was moved to the JKBS school this moth to provide adequate seating, something that was lacking at the boards prior meeting. Long time board member Pete Watercott apologized for not having enough capacity at the prior meeting.

This months meeting opened with a strong statement by Dr. Mike Phillips.  The emergency room doctor opened the public comment period by describing a splintered staff, that has broken into separate camps. Dr. Phillips also strongly criticized Chief Executive Officer Victoria Alexander Lane’s performance, noting a “lack of leadership, failure to do her job, and ruling with fear”.

Several other spoke during the public comment period expressing concern over the work environment.  Dr. Michael Dillon called for an establishment of a  working group to help face the current issues at Northern Inyo.

In regards to action at the meeting, the board listened to a long discussion about the Employee Complaints and Grievance Process Policy.  After a long discussion, the policy was tabled for further review, and will be back for potential action at next months meeting.

Dr. Thomas Boo, chief of staff announced he was stepping down as chief of staff. In giving a reason for stepping down, Dr Boo said, “Due to a dysfunctional relationship with administration.”

Chief Executive Officer Victoria Alexander Lane’s report included a positive update in regards to physician recruitment.  Alexander Lane noted the hiring of a new pediatrician who will be arriving from Massachusetts and also announced the hiring of Dr Felix Karp as a hospitalist.

Alexander Lane also updated the board on the hospitals strategic plan, detailing a wide variety of strategies for improvement, ranging from service prices to community outreach.

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NIH Employees Organize Union

Northern Inyo Hospital Employees Organize Union

Statement form the Northern Inyo Hospital Union Organizing Committee:

Registered Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, and Physician Assistants at Northern Inyo Hospital are organizing a union as part of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. We are doing this to maintain the care and safety of our patients, to retain experienced staff and nurture new nurses in a safe culture, to be involved in NIH’s financial stability, and to support the other employees at the hospital who are part of our team.

Northern Inyo Hospital is a community hospital with a history of great patient care. We frequently hear from patients, “I never get this level of care and attention down south.” We provide safe care with a low rate of infection and adverse events. It is an entire team of workers who provide this care, from the person that greets you at the front desk to the doctor making a life-saving diagnosis.

That team is under great pressure. Patient care needs and documentation requirements are increasing without an increase in time allowed to provide care. Having the time to hold the hand of a dying patient, to comfort a sick child, or to help a mother bring a baby safely into the world, cannot be measured in a cost/benefit ratio.

We have lost experienced caregivers because of the policy of terminating employees whose treatment for a major medical diagnosis like cancer extends beyond 16 weeks. Nurses have left because they were not allowed the scheduling flexibility to maintain a balance between work and family. Caregivers are wondering if they will have the financial stability to remain in this area where they have homes and families.

For the past decade financial pressures have been tightening on the hospital. Friends tell us they go elsewhere for care because of the cost locally. Our current administration is addressing our financial future in a proactive manner, increasing patient census, and cutting the cost of procedures and lab work. CEO Victoria Alexander-Lane’s proposals for a strategic plan have merit, but she has not had enough input from the caregivers who will be on the front line implementing changes in delivering patient care.

The decision to form a union was not an easy one. Northern Inyo Hospital is the last major employer in the county without a union to provide a voice for employees. We will be negotiating, not for special treatment for union members, but for fair treatment for everyone, with a guiding principle of maintaining excellent and safe care of patients.

 Members are (l to r) Susan Tonelli (ER), Heleen Welvaart (Med Surg), Denise Morrill (ER), Betty Wagoner (RHC), Anneke Bishop (OB), Kathleen Schneider (Med Surg), Christine Hanley (Med Surg), Maura Richman (OB), Cynthia McCarthy (ICU), and Laurie Archer (PACU).  Not present: Gloria Phillips (PACU), and Eva Judson (OB).
Members are (l to r) Susan Tonelli (ER), Heleen Welvaart (Med Surg), Denise Morrill (ER), Betty Wagoner (RHC), Anneke Bishop (OB), Kathleen Schneider (Med Surg), Christine Hanley (Med Surg), Maura Richman (OB), Cynthia McCarthy (ICU), and Laurie Archer (PACU). Not present: Gloria Phillips (PACU), and Eva Judson (OB).
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