Dawes’ column left unanswered questions

By Joni Dillon Guest Columnist

July 1, 2014

I wonder if Mr. Churchill had any sayings about half truths.

I have to believe the Sedliner didn’t get it as wrong as Mr. John Dawes (President and Chief Executive Officer at Bothwell Regional Health Center) said since I have never seen such an attempt to put out a “fire.” If in fact he believes it’s only an “amusement” or juicy “barbs” why give it the validation of a response?

In reading Mr. Dawes’ response to the Sedline remark I can see he has chosen to only speak of one “money pit” Bothwell has created. All coins have two sides and polishing one side does not negate the unpolished side. No mention was made of the huge facility sitting in Warsaw with its skeleton crew (most taken from the main hospital adding to the insufficient man power there) or Cole Camp. How much thought was given to the overhead versus revenue for these undertakings? There are always utilities, taxes and insurance to consider. How did you calculate the costs of all these clinics and remodeling being paid for by this community and surrounding area?

This is simple budgeting. You have pushed too far too fast. Metaphorically I liken this to a fisherman who caught lots of fish from the little boat in his pond and decided if he only had a big yacht he would make more money catching fish. Now the number of fish in the pond (people in Sedalia and the surrounding area) hasn’t changed but the overhead is higher taking away from any profit. When he touts the new cardiologist he negates to say both cardiologists are in fact employees from the Missouri Heart Association in Columbia and loyal to that group and Boone Hospital Center.

I am a health care worker and worked at Bothwell Regional Health Center from 1983-97. We had good benefits and most of the employees were from Sedalia, committed to this community. Coming from a large hospital setting in Dallas I remember being amazed when I watched the nurses’ aides giving the patients back rubs at night and “pink ladies” taking their carts to each room with juice, crackers and newspapers. Now, they are so understaffed it’s impossible to get a nurse to your room when you need help. Not because they are lazy, but because there are only a couple of nurses to oversee an entire floor of patients.

Mr. Dawes claims a 6 percent decrease in workforce this year but again doesn’t mention all the people they fired over the last six or more years or the ones whose hours were cut by up to 25 percent. You can’t support a family on that. I’m sure if Mr. Dawes and the other administrative personnel had volunteered to take a cut in their pay to help shoulder the burden of these daunting challenges, instead of merely cutting staff hours and benefits, they may have believed “we are all in this together.”

Long before the Affordable Care Act (which actually adds more people to the insurance pool therefore less “no pays, self pays”) and the “daunting financial challenges” it imposed countless people, with no prior disciplinary problems, were called to Human Resources, fired and then escorted to their cars. Most of these long-term employees were part of the old retirement plan and I’m sure being paid more than a new hire. Due to the large number of lawsuits this prompted, all the employees have now been made to sign an agreement that they can be fired at any time without reason. Hum?

With the fear of being fired and the continued whittling away of benefits, an apathetic cancer has seeped into this hospital. High quality health care begins with experienced nurses in adequate numbers. All the ultra modern buildings and equipment in the world will never outweigh that. A staff that feels valued and not expendable passes that on to every patient they care for. Now it is also necessary for Bothwell to join with the University health care system to help it through this, in my opinion, partially self-inflicted hard time. Now we can have a big corporate hospital instead of our community hospital. Profit first!

Perspective is everything, and these “wise decisions” Mr. Dawes and the Board of Trustees have made affected many people in this community in a negative way. Mr. Dawes concluded his article beseeching us to not only support our local hospital but to let them know when they have done well or they haven’t so they could grow and improve. Are you listening or is it too late?

Joni Dillon is a former health care worker at Bothwell Regional Health Center.