Soul’s Phoenix

This post has been redacted and censored to comply with my employer’s Social Media Policy effective Nov. 1, 2010.  This action appears the only recourse I have to preserve my Constitutional rights to free speech and free expression of my views on Extreme Thinkover.

In my post on March 12 I shared a letter that I had sent to Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) chair of the U.S. Senate’s Finance Committee and champion of health care reform, regarding the closing of the Clinical Pastoral Education Program at Censored by Corporate Social Media Policy

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is the national clinical ministry program that trains chaplains for hospitals, the military, prisons, hospice and other institutions.  Accreditation is difficult to obtain.  The standards for education are high, and the accountability is thorough.  CPE programs nationwide face similar uncertainty as the disaster in the economy collides with the disaster that is the American health care system.

Censored by Corporate Social Media Policy CPE program was a victim of that collision.

But sometimes very smart people with a driving sense of mission can find creative solutions.

And, this time, that sometime happened.

There’s a qualifier.  The reason the program was cut is that Censored by Corporate Social Media Policy, faced with an economy so bad our budget deficit is projected at $17 million, as well as, likely unprecedented uncompensated care expenses that could easily hit $70 million, has been forced to make acute action cutting staff and programs.  Colleagues we have worked with for years.  Programs that promote healing and compassionate care that have to be cut way back or eliminated.

The unemployment rate in Censored by Corporate Social Media Policy County where our hospital is located hit 12% percent in February, and Douglas County, just to the south of us, hit 18%.

So, nothing has changed.

Except the creativity and dedication of some very smart people (I commend them; I wasn’t directly involved).  After the initial decision was made, one key fact kept nagging at the Administration.  CPE had become so integrated into the spiritual care services provided daily by we who are chaplains, and was such a proven asset to our mission and care of patients, we just could not cut it off.  They rolled up their sleeves and went back to the drawing board.  They were able to save the program and meet the needed financial savings.

CPE will continue at Censored by Corporate Social Media Policy.  Changes had to made, of course.  Our program will now be be shifted to what is called “extended units” rather than full time, 20 hours per week rather than 40.  Three or four students, not our current six.  We still lose two of our close colleagues.

And guard against the inevitable organizational hazard of a hyena or two, stalking, plotting and hoping for failure and a meal.

These are the consequences of the economic trauma, inside and outside the organization.

We are not terminal.  Our CPE program and the fine people who comprise it will regain strength, providing a superior clinical education just as we have for the past six years.  And, too, we will plan to return to a full-time program as soon as the hospital can support it.

In the meantime, our mission as chaplains is to provide spiritual support and care to the patients who come through our doors.  We have work to do.

Health Care Now–Paul Krugman, NYT. A Reply

If you are a regular reader of Extreme Thinkover (here’s a shoutout to Eddie and Micki, two of my colleagues), you know one of my passions is health care reform and universal health care insurance.  We need it and we need it now!

This week Paul Krugman, who writes for the New York Times published, in his January 29th column, “Health Care Now.”

It’s a good piece, not only because he agrees with me, but that he presents a concise description of what is holding up getting started on the health care reform legislation in the new Obama administration, and then gives a Nobel-winning prize economist’s perspective why sooner is really necessary.

There is a bit of a mystery, though.  When the column was published over 350 people, including me, posted a reply.  After so many hours, the comment section was closed, which is standard NYT practice.  But then by the evening of the next day, the comments link was taken off-line.  Nothing from Krugman or the NYT as to why.  However, since I back up all my posts, and planned to put it on Extreme Thinkover, what follows is my reply to Dr. Krugman’s column.

^^^^^^^^^^

Paul–For some of us in the medical industry, the tsunami you call the looming health care disaster has already crested.  The hospital I work for, part of a Catholic health care system, incurred $66 million in uncompensated care last year (FY08).  That’s not waste or bad management.  That’s the amount of money we spent to treat every person who came to us, for which we could not recover a single dollar.  There are no golden parachutes or corporate jets in our health system.  And the administration says we are already $3 million ahead of last year.

Our mission is to treat the sick.  Anyone who thinks that not having access to health insurance or basic health care is overblown rhetoric or too expensive just needs to spend one day with me.

I cannot urge the Obama administration strongly enough to initiate their health reform legislation.  Nothing short of universal health care will work in the short or long run.  During the election I studied the various plans being touted (AARP, AMA, both candidates, the Catholic Health Association), as well as the legislation being introduced by various politicians.  I support the plan by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT). Be assured, I have written him several times, urging him to act quickly.

I know the financial crisis needs immediate attention, but there is no reason for the groundwork not to be laid now to push hard for health care reform and universal health insurance in Congress as soon as possible.

We need it now.  We needed it for all those patients who came to us last year, requiring  immediate medical care, but who had no way to pay for what collectively amounted to $66 million to just one hospital.  They got the care they needed, anyway.  That’s what can happen when you believe that health care is a human right.  It would just be nice for those people to have insurance so they are not prohibited from exercising that right.  It wouldn’t be bad to get compensated for that care either.