Results of both employee and patient surveys indicate overall satisfaction but with room left for improvement, the Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District governing board learned at their regular meeting last Thursday, Aug. 30.
The board also considered the feasibility and benefits of joining in an "informal affiliation" with other health care systems, received the results of the community strategic planning workshop held on July 19, and heard administrator Harry Jasper’s update on progress of goals in the current strategic plan.
About 60 percent of district employees responded to the second employee satisfaction survey, which follows up on the original survey distributed in October of last year, human resources director Linda Feretto told the board.
The same series of statements was given to employees, who rated their agreement from 1, "strongly disagree," through 5, "strongly agree."
While the results will not be thoroughly analyzed and compared to last year’s results until later this month, Feretto presented the board with percentages of disagreement, neutrality, and agreement in both spreadsheet and bar graph forms for their preliminary review.
The overall satisfaction rate, averaging responses to the survey as a whole, was 3.83, suggesting general satisfaction. The results are very similar to last year’s results, including the statements receiving most agreement and most disagreement.
One hundred percent of respondents agreed with the statement, "I am committed to the mission and values of the District." Ninety-seven percent agreed that they "know and understand the mission and values of the district."
Over 90 percent of employees also agreed that they are treated "courteously and respectfully" by other employees, that their department works well as a team, and that they are aware of how to report errors and concerns. Nearly 80 percent felt their own department manager was helpful, supportive, courteous, and respectful.
But less than half, approximately 48 percent, agreed with the statement, "Employee morale is generally good," however. Statements about whether management and administration are fair and care about employees hovered around the halfway mark, although two-thirds felt their last performance evaluation was fair.
A strong source of dissatisfaction comes with wages and retirement benefits, with less than half the respondents feeling that their rate of pay is "appropriate for my position," and only 20 percent preferring the current employee retirement plan to Social Security.
At the very bottom of the satisfaction score was, "The community has confidence in the healthcare services we provide," which received only 14 percent agreement.
The board felt that the survey would be more useful if more employees responded. Because the surveys were submitted anonymously, Feretto did not feel comfortable guessing why the other 40 percent of employees didn’t participate.
VALIC vs Social Security
Some board member suggested offering an incentive for employees to participate but Jasper and Feretto both pointed out that studies show that survey results are generally more accurate without incentives.
SHCHD employees, like many employees of the state of California and many local jurisdictions, get employee benefits through VALIC rather than Social Security. Employees contribute 7.5 percent of their pay for the first year of employment, and after that they may contribute as little as six percent or as much as they wish. The employer matches the contribution up to six percent.
Participation in VALIC excludes participation in Social Security, but when employees leave the district they can keep their VALIC account. The money in the VALIC account can be withdrawn when the employee leaves the district or it can be kept invested and continue to earn interest.
"With VALIC I get back whatever I put in -- it’s my money," Feretto said, while Social Security puts a cap on returns.
Opting out of VALIC in favor of Social Security would make it extremely difficult for the district to return to VALIC, Feretto said.
In spite of the low satisfaction rate, Feretto said she believes "... the longer you work here, the more you appreciate our retirement plan." She observed that, "Most younger employees are delighted. They have no faith in Social Security."
The retirement plan was put on the agenda for the September meeting for more detailed discussion.
The patient satisfaction survey was conducted as a "minute survey." When patients come into the clinic, emergency room, lab, or radiology department, they are given a prepaid postcard asking them whether they were satisfied with their visit and what could be done better. Patients could also respond online at their convenience.
The postcards are mailed to Rapid Improvement, Inc., a firm that analyzes the actual wording of the responses and reports back to SHCHD.
Preliminary results show 70% satisfaction in the ER and 80% satisfaction in the clinic, which are well above the national average, according to Rapid Improvement, Jasper reported, adding that he felt this was not high enough and that the district could better that rate.
The responses represent only about 10 percent of actual visits, however. This is not unusual in surveys of this type, Jasper said. A member of the public suggested this may in part be due to the number of patients who come back frequently for follow-up and chronic conditions and who do not want to fill out a postcard every time.
Jasper plans to invite representatives of Rapid Improvement to make a presentation to the board about how the responses are analyzed.
In his administrator’s report Jasper told the board that he has been approached by representatives of both St. Joseph’s and Adventist healthcare systems with offers of an "informal affiliation" with their organizations.
Ray Hino, the administrator of the Mendocino Coast Hospital in Ft. Bragg, told Jasper that many small independent hospitals join these affiliations "for survival" these days.
Mendocino Coast Hospital has informally affiliated with the Adventist Health System, which owns Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital in Willits. The Healdsburg District Hospital has informally affiliated with St. Joseph’s because of its proximity to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa, which are owned by St. Joseph’s Health System.
"I have made no grand commitment... but I believe it’s wise to build a relationship with neighboring hospitals," Jasper said. "I would like to see where and why affiliation could benefit our hospital."
Under informal affiliation, the local hospital would remain completely independent and would not be required to follow regulations or standards set by the larger entity.
SHCHD’s new community-based physician, Dr. Marcin Matuszkiewicz, began seeing patients in the clinic two weeks ago and is "building up to a full schedule of visits," Jasper reported. "We’ve heard wonderful things about him from patients."
Julie Moore, a registered nurse who has been working at SHCHD for two years, has been appointed as the new clinic nurse manager, Jasper announced. She has over 20 years of nursing experience.
SHCHD has also selected two free-lance publicity specialists to help with community outreach. One produced the biographical sketch of Dr. Matuszkiewicz that was distributed at the Chamber of Commerce mixer last month and is preparing a draft of a community newsletter based on suggestions made at the strategic planning workshop.
The other specialist is working on much-needed improvements to the website, Jasper said.
The board also received more than five pages of comments, concerns, and suggestions gleaned from the strategic planning workshop of July 19. Copies of the notes were sent to all the participants who left mailing addresses.
Since the board will begin updating its strategic plan at the Sept. 29 regular meeting, they agreed to hold a special meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 25 from 9 a.m. to noon to review the workshop report in detail and come up with a tentative list of priorities for the coming year.
The board also passed a resolution to extend the district’s parcel tax of $125 per parcel, officially called the District Augmentation Tax, for the current fiscal year 2012-13, as required by the original voter-approved measure.
In the interest of shorter meetings, the board agreed to accept a less detailed financial report each month and to forgo an oral financial report at the regular board meeting unless a board member or member of the public requests that the financial report be separately discussed.
The finance committee meets on the fourth Tuesday of the month to review the report, which is prepared by the administration, to request revisions if necessary, and to advise the full board regarding approval of the report. This is a public meeting, and any interested persons are welcome to come, ask questions, and make comment.
All public meetings of the SHCHD board are held in the Dimmick meeting room of the Garberville hospital. Regular open board meetings, held on the Thursday after the fourth Tuesday of the month, usually begin at 1 p.m.
The special meeting on Sept. 25 to discuss the strategic plan is also open to the public and begins at 9 a.m. It will be followed by the monthly finance committee meeting at 1 p.m. The regular board meeting will be held on Thursday, Sept. 29.