General Questions & Answers

Question:

My concern is being submitted on behalf of the various nurse staff that have continued to discuss the ways we could get our budget back on track without compromising the Best care initiative that the hospital prides itself on. It should continue to be brought up in these meetings as long as emails continue to come out asking our opinions and why we should work together to improve our press Ganey scores. When the acuity of that patient is higher and the family can see that we should be more involved with their care, our complaints continue to rise when we are unable to get into their rooms fast enough to help them. With our inability to closely watch all of our 5-6 patients, there has been an increase in rapids and codes called, resulting in ICU stay and overall increase length of stay, which is working against UTMB's overall goal. At the end of the day, there is only so much one RN can do for their 5-6 patients. Trust me when I say, we WANT to be able to sit and get to know our patients, but when you have back to back admissions coming in, call lights going off, family members upset because we didn’t answer on the first ring, it continues to beg the question, what did you think was going to happen when you increased our nurse to patient ratios. We saw this coming from the beginning. This is coming from a floor that most teams WANT their patients on because of how hard we work, and how competent we are, but with that comes some of the higher acuity patients with multiple comorbidities and more work than what should be allowed for a nurse taking 5-6 people. On top of all of this, we were told we would be staffed a certain way in order to compensate for this change which has NEVER been consistent. Unfortunately we are seeing increased call ins, more staff are quitting, increased nurse burnout, and an overall decrease in nurse satisfaction. UTMB once had a staff that truly wanted to be the best and do the best for their patients, now we are stuck just doing the best we can which unfortunately and understandably isn't good enough for our patients. We hear time and time again, that this is due to budget issues. I can say this, with the higher acuity patients sometimes needing more supplies than others, we are restocking those items more often than usual which our unit budgets take a hit with. We aren't charging the patient for all of the extra supplies we are using on them, which in turn skews everything. Please discuss a plan of action to decrease our ratios again, instead of telling us we need to do better. We really are trying. Sincerely, A burned out nurse.  

Possible cause of issue increased ratios with high acuity patients. high acuity patients who need more supplies are not being charged for all the extra things being used for them, this is charged to the unit budget which continues to set us over. 

Possible issue the ratio needs to be reevaluated in order to save the sanity of the remaining nurses that UTMB has. Even newer nurses that are coming in are being pushed to the limit so quickly that mistakes have been made and lives are being affected. Our nurse licenses need to be protected and we need to feel safer in order to continue putting out Best Care.

RESPONSE:

Thank you for your submission. The decision to make adjustments to nurse-to-patient ratios was based on a review of practices of hospitals in the Houston/Galveston market.

Our goal is to always ensure patient safety. If you ever feel that you are in a situation where you are not able to deliver safe care, notify the Clinical Operations Administrator (COA) on-duty, your manager, or your director to work on a solution. This is an opportunity to remind you that if you feel that an assignment is not safe you may invoke Safe Harbor.

It has been difficult to meet all PCT needs. However, we have been recruiting and working closely with the agency to ensure PCT needs are met.

We ask that nurses at UTMB use their expert nursing judgment and the expert judgment of their colleagues, and/or nurse manager to identify patient acuity and patient assignments. 

In an effort to meet patient care needs the following actions have been taken:

  • The addition of one Resource Nurse per floor, each shift, 7 days a week has been implemented
  • Close collaboration with the staffing office to fill PCT unit needs
  • Close collaboration with the COAs to staff a 4th Nurse when units are full at 16. (This is dependent on availability of Nurses)
  • Working with ancillary services to remove barriers to care such as availability of medications, supplies, linen, food and nutrition, environmental services, and transportation.
  • Morning huddle Monday thru Friday and POCR to address patient discharge needs.

Thanks,

David Marshall, RN

Questions:

Today I went to use the Pitney Bowes Postal machine located near Mail Services on the 2nd floor of Rebecca Sealy and I discovered it has been removed. I am not sure how much it was used by other employees, it was definitely seen as a benefit to me and my staff. As a busy working mom, having the ability to mail packages or purchase stamps on campus was a huge benefit. It is no different then having ATM machines located on campus. Now my already busy day just got busier especially during the holiday season when I mail more packages. Why was it removed?

Recently the Pitney Bowes Postal machine located near Mail Services on the 2nd floor of Rebecca Sealy was removed. This machine was installed after Ike when the full service postal service location in Rebecca Sealy was discontinued. While I'm not sure how many employees were aware of the on-site postal system available for use to purchase stamps or mail packages, it was seen as a benefit by myself and many of my co-workers. It ability to mail a personal package or express letter before or after working hours without having to travel to a different location added to my work life balance, with one less stop to make in an already crowded day that generally doesn't allow me to get to the post office during their hours. I saw it as similar to the convenience of the ATM machines across campus for making banking transactions.

I was notified the Pitney Bowes Postal machine was taken away from the 2nd floor of Rebecca Sealy without plans to bring it back. This on-site postal system was a value-added benefit of working at UTMB. I can't even tell you how much time that machine saved me. I could go to the machine and complete a transaction in 5 minutes or less that would take me even longer if I had to drive to the post office. It relieved the stress of having 'one more thing to do' and trying to find time to get the errand done. While I only used it for personal reasons, it helped with my work-life balance by tipping the scale to increase the balance in the "life" direction. I am not sure what the cost

Response: 

Thank you for your recent inquiry regarding the Pitney Bowes Postal machine that was located near the Mail Services department in the Rebecca Sealy Building on the Galveston Campus. Unfortunately, due to new United States Postal Service shipping standards, we were informed that the machine is no longer serviceable by Pitney Bowes and that we would need to find an alternate solution. We understand that a replacement product is currently under development, but we have not received a release date for this new product. In the interim, and for our customer’s convenience, our Mail Services department now sells postal stamps, both singles and sheets in increments of 50¢, $1, and $5 are available for cash purchase at our Mail Services Customer Service window. The Customer Service window is located on the 2nd floor of the Rebecca Sealy building, Room 2.802. Stamped mail may also be dropped off at the Mail Services Customer Service window or placed in the nearby slot for outgoing letters. Additionally, the UTMB Campus Store (centrally located in the Moody Medical Library) now offers retail packing and shipping services to all UTMB employees and students. Staff utilizing the new permanent service can either drop off prepacked parcels or opt to have store employees pack their items for them. All pieces will be shipped out via UPS during normal business hours. The UTMB Campus Store is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. To shop online, visit https://utmbstore.comWe apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. For more information, please contact Rafael Mendoza at racmendo@utmb.edu or (409)747-3268.

 

Questions:  

11/15/2018 - I am writing about merit increases. I understood from executive leadership that the merit pool for my level was 2.5%. My performance evaluation was "meets", and my reports-to added the comment: "___ has done a good job in managing _______. I appreciate ____ hard work and commitment to UTMB". There was nothing negative. My 360 evaluations were "meets" with many being "exceeds". Why did my reports-to give me only a 2% merit increase??? My understanding from my conversations with them is that they feel "meets" is average and to get 2.5% I should be in the "exceeds" category. Is that true??? Seems VERY subjective and completely unfair. What options do I have? I do without a merit for what has been 18 months, keep my nose clean and do a good job, and I only get something that doesn't even cover a cost of living increase? Wow.

11/16/2018 - Merit Increases. There needs to be a more clearer definition as to what and how the funds are used by the department. It should be mandated that the department supervisors must clearly state, in writing, w/hat factors will be weighed when they are deciding how they will disburse the merit pool among their employees and if a formula is used what is the formula and what exact data is used to calculate it. This is a grey area and I understand the University wants to give autonomy to the administrators/supervisors, but 4 departments I have been in do not clearly define the measures they use and my current department uses the merit funds to bring employees compa ratio closer to the median, which I don't think is proper use of funds that are to be awarded to employees for an outstanding job, the department should pull funds from other areas for this.

If the University cannot add more specific guidelines to the way funds are used then the President should announce funds have been given to the departments for supervisors to use at their discretion and not give a percentage of what is given to the "pool" because that gives a false idea to the employee that they are going to receive that increase.

The University must require departments to clearly identify the measures they use to calculate an employees Merit Increase. They must be measurable factors not subjective. They need to also state, if an employee transfers with a pay increase to another department will the new department award the employee their merit after they are in their current position for 6 months? There are so many loop holes and no one is making the departments be transparent. This all needs to be clearly stated by the department. What is the point in doing surveys, coming to work every day, the employee performance evaluations, setting performance goals, key performance goals and producing the best work possible, if ultimately the departments can do whatever they want and they have zero obligation to explain to the employee why they chose to disburse the funds as they did? I have found this is an issue across several departments not just my current department. Some departments give 3% (or whatever the percentage is for the job titles and for that particular year) across the board others don't but what is consistent is that there is no way for the employee to know how their department will decide what percentage they will give them.

Response:

Response provided by Vivian Kardow, vice president and chief human resources officer, and Philesha Evans, associate vice president, human resources and employee relations.

Our thanks to both employees who sent in these questions. We hope the following information is helpful.

The merit pay program is a vital component of the compensation plan at UTMB. It is intended to reward individual performance with increases to base pay or lump sum payments, as appropriate for the employee’s situation. Merit pay is not intended to be an across-the-board or cost-of-living increase, in which every employee throughout UTMB (or even within a department) automatically gets the same percentage increase.

Measuring individual performance is never an exact science. Goals can be quantitative or qualitative, or a mix of the two. Behavioral and “citizenship” factors come into play as well.

Because of the wide variety of job roles and work arrangements at UTMB, it would be impractical to create a formula to govern merit increases. Therefore, managers have discretion in how they allocate merit pay.

With that discretion comes the responsibility for managers to:

  • work with individuals to set goals each year and monitor progress throughout the year;
  • objectively evaluate work performance as it relates to goals and other performance criteria—ideally on an ongoing basis but certainly during the annual performance review process; and
  • manage the merit budget provided to the department to (1) reward individual employees based on the evaluation of their performance and (2) ensure employees under their direction are appropriately compensated for their work within their individual pay range.

The pool of merit dollars is limited, and managers must make their decisions based on the individual performance of employees in their department(s) as well as the specific circumstances in their department.

For instance, it can be appropriate and necessary to increase pay by a greater percentage for an individual who is materially low in the pay range, but whose contributions are highly valuable to the department. This, in addition to differences in performance throughout the year, can result in varying percentages among the merit increases awarded in a given year. Likewise, two individuals could receive the same percentage increase, again depending on performance and circumstances.

Regarding how the merit pool is communicated by the university: For the sake of transparency, we note the percentage used to calculate the merit pool for Classified and for Administrative & Professional staff. While communications about the merit pool state that the percentages used to calculate the available funding do not equal the amount of individual raises, we do get questions about this each merit cycle. We’ll get input from the Employee Advisory Council and the Internal Communications Council before the next merit cycle to ensure these messages are as clear as possible.

Lastly, regarding the specific question about merit raises after a pay increase resulting from a promotion within UTMB, please refer to the merit salary and one-time payment eligibility criteria issued by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.  

Thank you both again for sending your concerns to the EAC.

Question:   Response to the feelings of being disconnected from the Galveston campus...

Response:

As our Health System grows, it is important to ensure that all employees have the opportunity to participate in the activities that make UTMB Health a great place to work. In regards to the feeling of disconnect from the main campus that was expressed by the nurse clinicians, this is something that has been a focus of effort. Our efforts are driving in the right direction. Including all campuses and ensuring that professional development activities are readily available for all is a key goal. One step that has been made in this direction is the addition of Skype to all on-campus meetings in the Shared Leadership structure. All councils, including those mentioned - Professional Practice, Retention, and Night Shift Council have Skype capabilities and have had strong attendance via Skype. This was an addition to those councils about 6 months ago. Skype capabilities have also been added to the Angleton Danbury Campus councils. One thought that this concern triggered was the need to possibly add all councils to the calendars of all nursing staff, not just those signed up for each council. Hopefully, these sorts of reminders will allow everyone to be involved. We have received feedback that the Nursing section published for Weekly Relays are well received, so we can also ensure that all council, dates, and call-in information/instructions is/are present.

Question:   Who can we contact to change the policy about Respiratory Therapists who work a 36 hour week being considered as full time in order for us to keep our benefits the way Nurses do?  Nurses are considered to be full time at 36 hours yet no one else is.  Some of us have worked for this company for many years and would like to keep our longevity pay.

Response:

UTMB’s ability to grant nurses who work less than 40 hours per week with full-time status was made possible through two bills of the 80th Legislature (SB 993 and HB 2426), which are now Texas Education Code, Sec. 51.977. The bills were specific to nursing and granted medical and dental units of institutions of higher education relief from the state law that generally requires nurses to work a minimum of 40 hours a week to qualify for employer group insurance, leave, and longevity pay to improve competiveness in attracting and retaining nursing staff. At this time, there is no legal authority for organizations to change their policies for other roles.

Question: I would like to request the consideration of adding Muslim holidays to the holidays received by employees. There are 2 in a year. Thank you!

Response:

As a state agency, there are statutory limits to the holidays that can be officially observed at UTMB, and UTMB complies with all state mandated leave programs. The number of holidays observed each fiscal year varies based on the number of approved holidays that occur on business days (Monday – Friday). The list of approved holidays can be found here: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ref/abouttx/holidays.html

As a reminder, employees may work on certain holidays and “bank” those hours for use at a later date during the following 12 months. There are also four optional holidays that may be observed in lieu of other holidays. Employees are encouraged to speak with their managers to develop a work schedule that allows them the necessary time off for religious observances.

Question: Is there a nursing policy that speaks to when new grads are able to float after they have completed their orientation and if so where can I find it? Also, what about new hires that are not new grads? No two answers seem to be the same, so I am looking for clarification as units are becoming overstaffed.

Response:

Thank you for expressing your concern and raising these questions in regard to floating and consistency between areas. Currently there is no specific policy that outlines floating opportunities that you and/or others may be seeking. The only mention of floating at this time is contained within the Staffing and Scheduling Policy 3-57 that states, “…staff may be asked to float within their competencies and skill level.” Strict limitations have not been set to minimum times for floating due to the differences among settings and individual competencies. Most units tend to practice with a one-year minimum for floating of new graduates, but some may choose to modify the year expectation based on the comfort level of the new graduates. As far as newly hired, experience nurses, floating is up to the discretion of the unit’s leadership and ensuring a match between the acuity of the patient and the competencies of the nurse. Your questions have brought an important issue to the attention of nursing leadership, and we plan to partner with our HR team to modify the existing policy to give guidance in these instances. Thank you again for expressing your concern.

Question: I understand that UTMB is trying to cut costs due to the budget shortfall. In dealing with travel, I know that I have been told that the hotel rates allowed for all UTMB travel are over the amount set on our GSA link in travel info. For example, I was told by the department that handles travel expense reimbursement that they do not blink an eye when a hotel rate comes in at $350.00, even though it is not for anything special. They said they let all hotel room rates $350 and under per night go through. I am curious to know if we have a budget shortfall why they would allow such a vast difference in what they reimburse from what is shown to be acceptable for state institutions? They’re very nice hotels for under this cost in many areas that are traveled to. Just curious to know if we could possibly save money in this area. ??

Response:

Thank you for your inquiry. UTMB’s IHOP 4.3.1 - Travel Policy was developed according to federal, state and university guidelines to reimburse employees for legitimate UTMB business-related travel expenses. The policy also charges departmental managers to be good stewards of UTMB’s finances and resources.

All UTMB managers have the responsibility to control spending related to departmental travel. Department leaders may also adopt and set their own guidelines, including expense and reimbursement rates lower than or up to the limit of those referenced in the IHOP policy 4.3.1. UTMB’s Travel Guide and the 4.3.1 IHOP policy provides managers and travelers with tools to determine reasonable rates for hotel stays, including links to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) rates and guidelines.

UTMB predominately uses local funds (99%) for all travel expenses. These non-appropriated state funds are not bound by the State of Texas rules and regulations, which do, limit hotel rate reimbursements. The existing policy provides departments with needed flexibility in completing travel arrangements. Accounts Payable staff continually monitor and audit employee reimbursements to ensure all activities remain within our policies and guidelines.

Question: I am concerned about how the elimination of the free employee/student parking lot is being handled. I found out 4/4 when the driver of the shuttle van handed out a flier stating the lot would be closed April 16. My colleague, who walked from the lot, was unaware the free lot was going away. I went to the Parking office and they actually asked to make a copy of the flier I had received because no one had informed them that they might be deluged with questions or concerns. They said the Sustainability dept. was handling all of this. Today there is an enlarged sign by the shuttle pick up area of the parking lot to let people know that the lot will be a pay-as-you-go, public parking lot managed by an outside party as of 4/16. Unless you are waiting for the shuttle, you would not likely see the sign. As hundreds of people park in that lot, it is likely they are in for a rude surprise on Monday. My concern is that 1) this very useful and economical parking option is disappearing and that 2) it is highly inconsiderate not to adequately communicate this change so that all employees are aware this is happening. There are many employees who park along residential streets near the campus where they can, and I imagine they will also be upset when those spaces suddenly become difficult to find. I am grateful that I did find out about this change, and that I beat the rush to secure a paid parking spot--I just feel like I need a raise to afford it.

Response:

Thank you very much for your feedback on concerns you have regarding the new Parking initiatives on the Galveston campus. First, let me apologize for any confusion. That certainly was not our intent. Specifically to your concerns:

1. Yes, the Seawall Lot on Holiday has been an economical parking option. Once the lot closes on April 16, the Parking office has designated FH Lot at 4th and Mechanic, and the K Lot at Customs House as free parking lots for students with identifiers on their vehicles. For employees, the Parking office has implemented a tiered parking matrix based on the employee’s annual income for lots: E2 (4th and Barracuda), E5 (6th and Church), T (700 University), and W (6th and Harborside). Surface lots and garages remain the same. Please keep in mind, Auxiliary Services in conjunction with Sustainability will implement on the 16th, a campus circular shuttle operating throughout the Galveston campus M-F, 6:30am until 7:30pm to assist employees and visitors with a free mode of transportation across the campus.

2. Our hopes have consistently been to communicate the information as thoroughly as possible. Again, I apologize for any confusion. The distribution of the fliers was part of the overall communication plan to be accomplished. Several other parts of the communication plan were postponed at the last minute to make sure the Institution-wide communications were in sync and as comprehensive as possible. Unfortunately, the fliers had already been distributed to the riders of the parking lot shuttles. To that end, we have worked with Marketing and Communications to make sure, moving forward, the information is clearly disseminated across the Institution via multiple methods including the flyers you mentioned, the Weekly Relay, the UTMB home page, the Transit webpage, and in the Daily announcements.

Feedback such as yours, is essential to our ability to provide our customers with the answers they need. Thank you again for taking the time to express your concerns to us. Please feel free to contact the Parking office at 409-772-1581

Question: With annual online training being due in the coming months, recently every unit is being told they need to complete the list of items while we are working a 12 hour shift. With CCAP being on hold for now, the extra 4 hours that people would get to complete these mandatory trainings/education are no longer being offered in light of budget issues. At the same time we are being told to expect being flexed up to 6:1/ 5:1 with the "possibility" of two PCTS. With this being said, many RN's are worried about completing the annual training in a timely manner, but also having time to SAFELY care for our patients. We are to focus on 5-6 patients, while dealing with shortage of supplies (even after getting with Nurse Manager/material mgmt), No phlebotomy, and charting to make sure our license is covered in the event something goes wrong while all of this is happening, and now to add we cannot get 4 hours 36+4, to finish MANDTORY training. If the suggestion is to get with the charge nurse to find a suitable time she can take on my patients while I do this work, this will not be accepted. As the charge nurse is given extra duties/paperwork to complete on top of a heavy patient load. One of my main concerns is finishing the NIH stoke training as the test to pass requires full attention to detailed videos and cannot be completed in multiple segments. As there are many issues noted here, We have heard from Mgmt that some units are not appropriately staffed after the switch from john to Jennie Sealy due to the increase in beds. Since then, there is always a shortage on these floors making nurses from other units float for coverage leaving their units short. Budget has been a word we have been hearing for the last few months, but I feel safety should be considered before budget. Allow Nurses to come in on a day off for 8 hours one day to complete everything as straight time. So we can safely finish all education requirements. I chose 8 hours as we have people driving from almost 2 hours away, and they should be fairly included. Someone from upper management needs to advocate for their nurses, maybe David Marshall as he is the CNO.

Response:

Thank you for sharing your concerns related to the mandatory training requirement and for openly describing the pressure you have felt as UTMB strives as an organization to work more efficiently. Feelings of anxiety and pressure to produce are normal reactions to these sorts of situations.

Although we are not able to offer paid time aside from regularly scheduled shifts to complete mandatory training, a decision has been made to move the May 31 Nursing Service mandatory training deadline to August 31 to allow additional time this year for nurses to work through the required educational modules. Next year and beyond, courses can be completed at any time during working hours within the 12-month period prior. Please communicate early with your nurse manager if you find you are unable to complete the training within the time allotted.

Ensuring a safe care environment for our patients and staff is our top priority. The decision to flex up to 5 to 6 patients was based on standard staffing patterns in the broader Houston/Galveston area. That being said, we realize this is a change for many of our nurses, and we are exploring ways we make the transition as smooth as possible. We are also working with Nurse Recruitment to allow nurses to transfer between units and are monitor staffing levels on each unit.

Should you observe any safety issues on your unit, please communicate with your direct supervisor; you may also report concerns using the patient event reporting system.

Again, thank you for brining your concerns forward and for advocating for the entire UTMB nursing team.

Question: The discontinuation of phlebotomy has caused a considerable increase in work for nightshift nurses and a significant decrease in job satisfaction. In order to accommodate the time it takes to draw patient labs, many times nurses are forced to forfeit their lunch breaks. This extra stress is increased even more so lately due to the lack of staffing and often times flexed patient:nurse ratios. I also suspect this is the reason why call ins have increased hospital wide. It’s hard to stay positive and motivated about your job when you are pushed to the limit every single shift and are not thanked or compensated for the extra efforts. With annual online training being due in the coming months, recently every unit is being told they need to complete the list of items while we are working a 12 hours shift. With CCAP being on hold for now, the extra 4 hours that people would get to complete these mandatory trainings/education are no longer being offered in light of budget issues. At the same time we are being told to expect being flexed up to 6:1/5:1 with the “possibility” of two PCTS. With this being said, many RNs are worried about completing the annual training in a timely manner, but also having time to SAFELY care for our patients. We are to focus on 5-6 patients, while dealing with shortage of supplies (even after getting with Nurse Manager/material mgmt). No phlebotomy, and charting to make sure our license is covered in the event something goes wrong while all of this is happening, and now to add we cannot get 4 hours 36+4, to finish MANDATORY training. If the suggestion is to get with the charge nurse to find a suitable time she can take on my patients while I do this work, this will not be accepted. As the charge nurse is given extra duties/paperwork to complete on top of a heavy patient load. One of my main concerns is finishing the NIH stroke training as the test to pass requires full attention to detailed videos and cannot be completed in multiple segments. As there are many issues noted here, we have heard from Mgmt that some units are not appropriately staffed after the switch from John to Jennie Sealy due to the increase in beds. Since then, there is always a shortage on these floors making nurses from other units float for coverage leaving their units short. Budget has been a word we have been hearing for the last few months, but I feel safety should be considered before budget. A solution would be to allow nurses to come in on a day off for 8 hours one day to complete everything as straight time. So we can safely finish all education requirements. I chose 8 hours as we have people driving from almost 2 hours away, and they should be fairly included.

Response:

Thank you for sharing your concerns related to the mandatory training requirement and for openly describing the pressure you have felt as UTMB strives as an organization to work more efficiently. Feelings of anxiety and pressure to produce are normal reactions to these sorts of situations. Although we are not able to offer paid time aside from regularly scheduled shifts to complete mandatory training, a decision has been made to move the May 31 Nursing Service mandatory training deadline to August 31 to allow additional time this year for nurses to work through the required educational modules. Next year and beyond, courses can be completed at any time during working hours within the 12-month period prior. Please communicate early with your nurse manager if you find you are unable to complete the training within the time allotted. Ensuring a safe care environment for our patients and staff is our top priority. The decision to flex up to 5 to 6 patients was based on standard staffing patterns in the broader Houston/Galveston area. That being said, we realize this is a change for many of our nurses, and we are exploring ways we make the transition as smooth as possible. We are also working with Nurse Recruitment to allow nurses to transfer between units and are monitor staffing levels on each unit. Should you observe any safety issues on your unit, please communicate with your direct supervisor; you may also report concerns using the patient event reporting system. Again, thank you for bringing your concerns forward and for advocating for the entire UTMB nursing team.

Question: No one on physician side is aware of what our role of providing care will be. What will the structure consist? Are we sharing resources? Why can’t we be dual-appointed? If we are there to assist by providing ancillary, non-oncology services (PCP, subspecialty care) why aren’t we ramping up resources to be ready when they open – esp. procedural services and larger ICU? Who will staff the extra population given that we are under staffed with existing structured and many providers are leaving or contemplating leaving the institution for better compensating jobs with less administrative roles.

Response:

As one can appreciate, the addition of MD Anderson’s Outpatient Cancer Center on the UTMB League City Campus is a complex undertaking. For two academic health systems, related through the UT System, but functionally separate for the history of each, finding ways to collaborate and coexist provides much in the way of opportunity and but it also comes with its own set of challenge. Agreeing to collaborate is one thing; the hard work comes with working out the details. The first question, “no one on (the) physician side is aware of what our role of providing care will be”, is not entirely accurate. Throughout the planning process we have included many of our physicians, educators and clinical leadership, particularly those who have a high proportion of their practice, in helping to plan the facility, how it will work, and providing input to potential opportunities. It is accurate to say that there is still much work to be done to complete the development so that we achieve the goals that those opportunities represent. This will require the awareness and input from not just our physicians, but other providers, staff and administrators as well. As the topics and time is right, we will have more discussions with those individuals. Many are aware that MD Anderson has had a significant change in leadership over the past six months. While the change was taking place at MD Anderson, talks were on hold until the new leadership could being its work. This change in leadership has come with a renewed willingness to cooperate with UTMB in our approach to patient care in the League City market. This willingness has brought partners from the MD Anderson side who are willing to work with our physicians, staff and administration to provide the best care possible for our patients. While some resources and efforts will be shared between UTMB and MD Anderson, our planning has to preserve the ability to charge a facility fee and the benefits that come with being a hospital outpatient department. MD Anderson’s facility (like ours) is an extension of their hospital license which makes it financially necessary for some resources to be functionally separate. As we have the more concrete plans in the coming months, those will be shared. Joint appointments, credentialing and hospital privileges are currently one of the key agreements that both institutions, along with UT System, are working to achieve. We are confident that there will be a solution for MD Anderson and UTMB Health providers who will need all three for the campus to function at the peak of its capabilities. As for the rest (additional resources, staffing, etc.) those are all potentials that UTMB is and will remain aware of in order to meet increased demand for services as that occurs. MD Anderson is (by and large) moving an existing practice from their Bay Area location; many of their patients, like ours, are already receiving care in the region. It is our hope that these existing MD Anderson patients and their families will increasingly choose UTMB providers and facilities for their care as we have a full complement of healthcare services. Regarding communication, we are at a point where we have something substantial to communicate. Now that progress has resumed, frankly, there is something to communicate. The structure of this relationship is still in development and we should have significant progress to report in the near future. In the meantime, we are developing a set of Frequently Asked Questions to be posted to our intranet, and Donna Sollenberger and Dr. Danny Jacobs will be offering to attend faculty meetings to provide information and answer questions. That should occur over the next several months, and is dependent on the schedule of the departmental faculty meetings.

Question: The discontinuation of phlebotomy has caused a considerable increase in work for nightshift nurses and a significant decrease in job satisfaction. In order to accommodate the time it takes to draw patient labs, many times nurses are forced to forfeit their lunch breaks. This extra stress is increased even more so lately due to the lack of staffing and often times flexed patient:nurse ratios. I also suspect this is the reason why call ins have increased hospital wide. It’s hard to stay positive and motivated about your job when you are pushed to the limit every single shift and are not thanked or compensated for the extra efforts.

Response:

Thank you for taking the time to express your concerns about the decision to reassign phlebotomy staff to other duties. The decision was intended to reduce expenses and address concerns with the phlebotomy staffing model that resulted in inconsistent daily phlebotomy service to all hospital units. Part of the plan includes classes that are currently being offered to equip more PCT IIs with the competencies to assist with routine lab draws. In addition, there is a physician-led group working on eliminating and/or reducing unnecessary laboratory testing. Please work directly with your Nurse Manager to ensure that staff are able to have a meal break during their shift.

Question: Executive leadership routinely talks about opportunities for employees to grow, develop and be promoted at UTMB. But, recently an accomplished internal leader was passed over for a big promotion in favor of someone from the outside.  Also, why do we use expensive search firms to hire our leaders?  Could that money be better spent on developing the employees who are already here?

Response:

Hiring or promoting the right people into the right positions is one of the most important things we do at UTMB.

We always carefully consider our internal candidates and encourage those we feel are well qualified to apply for the position.  Contracting with an executive search firm for our senior positions, however, provides us access to a network of national candidates that we would not be exposed to otherwise.  This network includes candidates from across the country who are diverse and accomplished and who also represent many different perspectives and experiences in our industry. We believe this expense is justified because it ensures that we are considering a much larger, more diverse and unique group of candidates that will be strategic in shaping UTMB’s future.

Once the pool of candidates—internal and external — is finalized, a broad-based committee of UTMB employees and leaders interviews, ranks and recommends candidates to the executive team for further consideration.  Executive leaders make the final hiring decision.

Sometimes, this comprehensive process confirms that our best candidate is already right here at UTMB; at other times, we conclude that an outside candidate will bring strength and experience that we need to advance our organization, but don’t currently have.  Our goal is to always be fair, impartial and thorough in our selection, and to stay focused on what our university needs to keep moving forward.

Regarding your concern about providing more professional development for our employees already at UTMB, we agree with you!  The “My Road Ahead” program has given employees the opportunity to choose training activities they feel they most need, and it has been successful.  The UT System Learning Zone, a highly robust roster of professional development courses is a newer initiative and accessible to all UTMB employees. We are looking at ways to expand our tuition reimbursement program for employees seeking higher education.

But, none of this goes far enough to support and develop the people who are fundamental to the growth and success of our institution.  We will continue to look for ways to “grow our own” at UTMB—from our front-line staff to our senior executives—and we always welcome your input and ideas for how best to make this happen.

Question(Recycling): The cafeteria uses lots of Styrofoam. Would they consider using more environmentally friendly material? I read about a restaurant that uses recycled paperboard. It is only a little more expensive, but worth considering.

Response (from Jarrod Carr, Retail Manager for Morrison’s):

Thank you for your comment. Morrison’s is committed to finding ways to be great stewards of the environment. As you mentioned, biodegradable items are very expensive — more than three times as much as our current product. Unfortunately at this time, we will not be able to switch out these items but will look to transition or reduce the amounts of Styrofoam as we move forward and as our budget allows. We will also continue to work to reduce our carbon footprint in other areas and with our vendors as well.

Question (Hospitals and Clinics): Why is the utmb all in lower case letters on all the signage. Most abbreviations are in capital letters?

Response: 

Thank you for the question. UTMB worked with The Richards Group, a nationally respected branding and advertising agency, on the 2010 rebranding. Their goal was, in part, to develop a more modern and eye-catching logo to visually represent the university’s brand identity as we began to expand programs and services. We wanted to use the letters “UTMB” in our logo to increase name recognition, and the designers took a “typography as artwork” approach to the logo. Richards Group designers developed a number of options for UTMB’s consideration. In the end, The Richards Group recommended, and UTMB leadership approved, the logo we have today. The non-traditional use of lowercase letters in the red box (the “bullseye” in design lingo) draws the eye, while the italics denote forward movement, graphically representing UTMB’s progressive spirit. It should be noted that this type treatment is reserved for the logo artwork only. In plain text, such as in publications, ad copy, reports and correspondence, the name should be written as “UTMB Health” (after an initial reference to our full name: the University of Texas Medical Branch). For more information, refer to www.utmb.edu/identity . 

Question (Compensation): When I was hired I was given a proposal letter that gave a proposed yearly wage, and my hourly wage was figured off of that yearly wage dividing it by how many checks are in a year and then by 80 hour work week and that is my hourly wage. With talks about moving to a 36hr work week, will my yearly wage remain the same or will my hourly wage remain the same witch would drastically drop my yearly earnings in essence changing what my proposed yearly wages would be?

Response: 

Discussions regarding the feasibility of transitioning certain nurses to a 36-hour work week while allowing them to maintain full – time benefits eligibility continue, and no final decision has been made.  If such a program is implemented, the hourly rate of the affected nurses will not be reduced.  Keep in mind that nonexempt employees are paid on an hourly basis, and annual earnings will depend upon the number of hours that the nurse actually works over the course of the year.  Therefore, the amount earned in a year may be more or less than the anticipated annual salary stated in a job offer letter.

Question (Health Benefits): In light of the Supreme Court ruling today (6/26/15), will UTMB begin to offer health benefits to employees’ same-sex spouses? Will it be in time for open enrollment?  

Response: 

A statement issued today (6/26/15) from UT System states, “We recognize the great interest in this ruling and are giving it our highest priority.  The UT System Office of General Counsel is carefully evaluating the opinion, taking into account all applicable state and federal laws, and will issue guidance to UT institutions as quickly as possible.” UTMB will know more once we have the UT System guidance.

Question (CMC Time Clocks): Can time clocks be moved to the front of the unit? Staff is able to clock in and out of the unit from their desks for lunch, so I do not see why the time clock cannot be placed in the front of the unit when we first sign in and can clock out on our way out.

Response:

This question has been raised several times and has been researched. The current time clock locations comply with applicable state and federal laws, so the time clocks will not be moved.

Question (Compensation): In the current society environment that is having issues with racism and diversity, and, at a university that prides itself on advocating diversity, how is it that HR allows a department to continue to undervalue and under pay minority employees that are more educated and have more experience than individuals with a high school education?

Response:  

As noted, UTMB strives to maintain an inclusive environment that values diversity.  Any employee who believes that employment decisions are being made on the basis of race or any other protected category should contact the Department of Internal Investigations at (409)747-5742.  Additionally, any employee who has specific concerns regarding his or her job classification or : salary should contact Human Resources – Employee Relations at (409)772-8696.

Question (Parking): Because Parking Garage 2 has only one exit that leads out to a traffic light, the traffic gets congested because the light only allows 3-4 cars to cross at a time. A possible solution would be to have a traffic guard during the afternoon traffic from 4:45 to 5:30 at that location.

Response:

Thank you for your EAC submission. Parking Operations is aware that backups happen periodically in Garage 2 during the peak exit times due to the length of the light cycle. We have been working with liaisons to the City of Galveston in hopes of getting the light cycle lengthened. The City of Galveston has been looking into the situation and we hope to have a possible resolution in the near future. Unfortunately, at this time, we do not have the resources to employ traffic guards. Parking Operations is an auxiliary enterprise of the institution and is expected to be self-sustaining. If you have any other questions or would like more information, please feel free to contact parking@utmb.edu and we will respond to you directly.

 

Mondays in March – March 30, 2015

David Callender, MD, MBA, FACS

President

Question: When Gov. Abbott was sworn in, he said he wanted to see a smaller state government and announced a 10% cut in his office budget. Is there a state mandate to cut? What does this mean for employees?

Response (from Dr. Ben Raimer):

Most new leaders in state office make good on a campaign promise related to “smaller government” to decrease the size of their own office. This is often done simply by transferring the FTEs (full-time employees) to another agency or branch of government. There has been no discussion during this session for “layoffs” in state government, but neither have there been discussions for expansions of current services. There is discussion to decrease the number of Juvenile Detention Facilities around the state in order to locate juvenile offenders into community settings closer to their homes so that parents can be involved in treatment. Also, a study is underway to move residents out of long term state living facilities into group homes in local communities. But, a cap on state funded FTE’s and/or a reduction of that cap has not been in play in the Legislature as of this time.

Question: Will the no-smoking policy be enforced on campus? Despite the no-smoking signs posted on campus, folks are still smoking, creating litter and second-hand smoke that causes problems for non-smoking passersby. I see fantastic UTMB commercials, wonderful billboards and a beautiful new hospital being built which would make anybody excited to visit UTMB for their medical needs. However, when visitors arrive on campus and are greeted with UTMB employees wearing badges and scrubs and patients hooked up to IVs smoking where there are clearly visible no-smoking signs, it doesn’t fit with the image we are trying to portray. Please enforce no-smoking in the designated no-smoking areas and designate a place for smokers to convene and smoke.

Response (from Chief Tom Engells):

Smoking remains a chronic problem; for example in February 2015 we had 67 separate incidents of smoking on campus. While the number of employees found smoking on campus is insignificant, we spend a considerable amount of time redirecting patients, patient family members and guests off campus to smoke. Our No Smoking policy is an institutional policy and, as such, all members of the community are expected to share in the enforcement of the same.

As an employee, you can help enforce the policy by encouraging others to refrain from using tobacco products while on UTMB property. If you see someone smoking or using tobacco, politely inform him or her that the institution is tobacco-free and that no one is permitted to use tobacco products on UTMB’s grounds or inside its facilities. If the person refuses to stop, please walk away from the situation and avoid becoming argumentative. Never jeopardize your safety or the safety of others. If you are not comfortable approaching the tobacco user, you can notify university police or Human Resources of the policy violation.

Additional information is on the Human Resources’ web site at (http://hr.utmb.edu/hpw/tobaccofree.aspx) with the tobacco-free policy, talking points and information about UTMB’s tobacco cessation program.

 

Mondays in March – March 16, 2015

Danny O. Jacobs, MD, MPH, FACS

Executive Vice President, Provost and Dean of the School of Medicine

Question: What is the University’s policy on Flex Time?

Response:

Flex Time policies at UTMB are developed at the departmental level and are based on the business operations in that particular area. Before a Flex Time policy is developed for a particular department, that department’s HR Consultant should be contacted to discuss the specifics of that department’s plan. A list of HR Consultants by area is on the iUTMB Employee Relations web page under HR Divisions, Employee Relations Team.

 

Mondays in March – March 9, 2015

Donna K. Sollenberger, MA

Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer, UTMB Health System

QuestionIs additional parking planned to accommodate the new volume of patients and their families when the new Jennie Sealy Hospital opens? I am wondering where people will be directed to park.

Response:

UTMB management and Auxiliary Services have been actively planning and coordinating efforts in support of our future planned mode of parking operations. Our primary emphasis has been and will continue to be to provide convenient access to care to our patients and families. While there are no “new” parking facilities planned, all of our planning projections indicate that UTMB has the resources in place to accommodate the anticipated demand for patient services, as well as students, faculty, and employees. Parking Operations can be contacted by emailing parking@utmb.edu. A response is typically given within 24-48 hours and all customers are invited to provide their feedback.

Question: Why doesn’t UTMB have an adult urgent care clinic on the island? My family and I use the pediatric urgent care on a regular basis and would love to have a UTMB adult urgent care to go to.

Response:

We plan to build an adult urgent care facility in our new Central City Clinic due to open in December of 2016. Hours of operation will be 5pm – 10pm Monday through Friday and Saturday and Sunday from 8am – 8pm.

Question: What will the building be that is being erected at the corner of Holiday Drive and Texas Avenue, next to Bethel Hall?

Response:

That building will be the New East Chilled Water Plant. It will house 7,000 tons of chilled water production equipment, 2 million gallons of thermal storage, and 7.5 megawatts of co-generation equipment.

 

General Questions

Question (Administrative Expenses): My concern is UTMB finding monies to help with the issues of budget expenses; having been in private practice for 14 years in the past, I see monies being missed from a clinic perspective; I’ve been to many private offices in the Houston area and private offices in the Clear Lake area all which have implemented costs for missed/cancelled appts, medical record release, pre-authorizations, special reports/letters that are patient responsibilitiesPossible solution: I see no reason why UTMB cannot implement policies of cost responsibilities for patients for preauthorizations, FMLA/Disability paperwork, medical records (suggestion which is stated on the Texas State Board website), no shows, less than 24 hr cancelled appointments. I have a copy of such a proposal from a private office in Houston and each patient is required to sign it with understanding of such costs. Who do you believe could resolve this issue? I firmly believe the University should implement a cost program and each clinic having patients sign the forms on their first visit, understanding the issues at hand and their cost; give copy to patient as well and scan signed copy into patient record; staffing of offices is in the top 2 on the list of expenses in any office; we are losing money right and left if we do not implement such policies; staff & physicians are working hard to satisfy patient’s requests for appts/paperwork etc but we are losing money when patients no show or cancel on day of appt; ask for loads of paperwork to be filled out for them, etc. (Posted 2/26/15)

Response:

“Of the policies suggested some exist. Medical records consistently charges for records release to the maximum allowed by law. Some clinics charge for filling out FMLA/Disability paperwork. We are not consistent in our approach to this and similar paperwork.

Ambulatory Clinic Based Leadership (ABCL) teams have recently be instituted. The Steering Committee for ABCL will investigate the other recommendations and a policy to charge for completion of FMLA/Disability paperwork in the next few months and communicate our findings. Each clinic has an ABCL team that can communicate the decision to the faculty asking the question and other clinicians who work in the clinic.”

Question (CMC Time Clocks): I would like to know why some people do not have to clock in at all. I am nonexempt and have to clock in 4 times a day so they can keep up with my time (this includes lunch). A lot of us feel that those that don’t clock in at all can’t be monitored and subject to abuse. I see it all the time… While we have to follow the rules, it seems some don’t have to do anything but show up. I thought at least the norm was to clock in to say that the employee came to work. I just see its unfair and abuse of this can escalate because there is no monitoring of employees work schedule. (Posted 2/9/15)

Response:

Non-exempt employees are covered by Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) rules and regulations, which, among other things, requires that an employer pay at least the federal minimum wage and pay overtime pay at no less than one-and-a-half times the employees’ hourly rate for any hours worked beyond 40 each week. Exempt employees are not covered by FLSA and are excluded from minimum wage, overtime regulations, and other rights and protections afforded non-exempt employees, thus, CMC does not require exempt employees to utilize the time clocks.  An OT-eligible exempt employee in CMC is, typically, an RN who, for recruitment and retention purposes, is paid overtime and shift differential. They are not protected under FLSA the same as non-exempt employees but are paid as hourly workers at the discretion of the employer. CMC OT-eligible exempt employees are required to clock In and Out in order to correctly calculate OT and shift differential pay; this includes clocking Out/In for lunch. If you believe someone is abusing their time, please report the specifics to your chain of command or HR immediately.

Question (CMC Reduce Paper Use for Cost Savings): Could we save money at UTMB/CMC by working on paper reduction? I work in CMC and we have boxes and boxes of paper to be shredded. Could we have an electronic signature device to keep us from printing paper, scanning paper and then shredding paper? If we combined all the prison units, it would make a big difference. All units use Electronic Medical Records (EMR), but many people still believe in printing forms and filling them in by hand. (Posted 1/26/15)

Response (from Dr. Owen Murray, Vice President, Correctional Managed Care Operations – CMC):

We have asked the Legislature for additional technology capital to address some of the concerns you are mentioning. Increasing our “paperless” direction is a goal of CMC and TDCJ that we are continuing to improve upon. Thanks.

Question (CMC Staffing): Why in CMC do we need to see patients for their diets? The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) could save money on time spent on Nurse Sick Call (NSC) from clerical staff, nurses and doctors. Let us spend time somewhere else. (Posted 1/21/15)

Response (from Dr. Owen Murray, Vice President, Correctional Managed Care – CMC):

I will bring this issue up with the Operations Council to see if we have data which accurately reflects the opportunity in reduced workload. We would need to discuss any proposed change in our current obligations involving dietary policy and procedure with TDCJ and our partner Texas Tech. Excellent suggestion.

Question (CMC Nursing Education): Considering the substantial nursing shortage, I would like to know if an online/ correspondence program for CMC LVNs could be offered through UTMB, allowing them to obtain their RN degree. Just like other correspondence/online courses, the exams could be taken at a local college or testing site and a final clinical could be done right there at UTMB. Since UTMB has its own Nursing School, it would be a great incentive and privilege to work for UTMB while advancing our degrees through the University.(Posted 1/21/15)

Response:

We have participated in an RN work school program in the past; however, it did not work as it was intended. We have requested a significant number of additional RN positions in this Legislative request. If the additional staffing requests are approved this session, we may consider looking at a work school program in the future. 1/21/2015

Question (CMC Raises): When will cmc dentists get a pay increase to be more in line with real world pay? (Posted 1/21/15)

Response:

We have asked for market increases for dentists and dental as well.

Question (CMC Raises): With the new Legislature in progress, will CMC employees, mainly nurses, receive a substantial raise this upcoming year? As we all have completed our e-performances, it would make sense for raises to be based on performance, attendance, longevity, etc. Also discussed by Coordinator of Infectious Disease (CID) nurses during a CID meeting was the possible consideration of a “Specialty Pay” for CMC CID nurses. (Posted 1/21/15)

Response:

We have in this Legislative Session requested through TDCJ market increases for nursing. We are hopeful that we have both the data and anecdotes to make a strong case to the Legislature that these monies are needed. We will consider all pay programs that will allow us to retain and recruit our very valuable nursing personnel.

Question (Field House Parking): I have a concern about the limited number of spaces for field house parking. I don’t think it is fair to the field house or its members. They seem to keep whittling away on available spots. Essentially, if I understand correctly, during the day, there are the 12 dedicated spaces in the old dorm parking lot, Lot FH behind the tennis courts (?) and on street parking. People who want to use the field house during the day have to compete with employees for the street parking. After 5 pm, there is parking in Lots FH and H and on street parking. Problem with lot FH is there are no sidewalks so you have to walk in the street or I guess you could walk the track now that they have reopened that area. That is not a good situation though with people trying to exercise on the track. Most access to any of the available lots are very dark and not properly lighted. I teach the aquatic fitness class and many of my students have voiced concern about parking and lack of handicap parking. Some have left because they cannot find a parking place near the building. We both know the “steps” won’t hurt anyone but some cannot walk very far and others will not come if they cannot find a reasonable place to park. Some do need the handicap spots and those are very, very limited. (Posted 1/5/15)

Response:

Thank you for your submission. We appreciate you being a member of our Alumni Field House and we apologize that parking continues to be a frustrating topic for all. Unfortunately, the construction projects that are going on around the Field House have caused the temporary closure of Lot H (behind the Field House) and in the next few weeks will require the west portion of the G lot be closed temporarily as well. Field House management, along with Auxiliary Enterprises as a whole, are not happy about this situation either, but understand that this a necessary inconvenience for the greater good of the university and the overall campus.

I would like to clarify a couple of things you mention in your email. You are correct that the FH lot is available for both daytime and nighttime parking. The FH lot has the capacity for 67 vehicles, which provides ample amount of parking for the average need of Field House members. To your point, the FH lot is a little further away and does have some “travel issues” associated with it. We are, and have been, looking into ways to make this lot more appealing for Field House members to use. However, the fact remains that utilizing this lot should always provide a Field House member with the opportunity for a parking space both day and night.In regards to street parking, I am unsure what you mean by having to “compete with employees for street parking.” There are dedicated street parking spaces, which include disabled spaces, on the street dedicated for Field House members only. These spaces are available and utilized by Field House members each day and patrolled by our Parking Operations team to ensure compliance.

The 12 dedicated spaces in the G lot are very nice and provide extra parking for the Field House members. However, these spaces were created at the time when the F, G and H lots were underutilized and had the availability to create these spaces. These were done as a benefit for the Field House members and were never really intended to be permanent or reserved spaces for the Field House. The true use for the G lot is for employee and student housing parking. We are trying very hard to keep these 12 spaces for the Field House members, but as mentioned above, the G lot will continue to get tighter and tighter in the near future. Unfortunately, if we have to return these 12 spaces back to their original purpose of supporting student housing and employee parking, we will have to do so. Again, our intent is to work with Parking Operations and the Construction contractor to do everything we can to keep these spaces available for members.

Thank you again for your feedback. I would also like to inform you of our Field House email address, which is almfldhs@utmb.edu. This email address is another option, along with the EAC, in which you can provide real time feedback and receive a response from Field House management within 48 hours. In addition to the email address, our onsite manager, Leslie Blacketer, is available at the Field House on a daily basis to hear your concerns or feedback.

Question (UTMB Holiday Lighting): I had the privilege of attending the UTMB holiday lighting. It was a wonderful event – catering and music was fabulous. Attendance was low.  I believe that attendance would be increased if it where more family-oriented especially for children. I believe employees would feel more valued if the administrators would mingle among the crowd, meeting employees and allowing the employees the opportunity to introduce their family members to administrators. Also, I think it would fun to allow children to turn on the lights. Who do you believe could resolve this issue? This is not issue that needs resolution, just a suggestion to promote “working together”.  (Posted 12/5/14)

Response:

Passed along to University Events to consider for next year; their response:   We have actually discussed some of this after the event this year. We had a lot of families and children last year when we had the children’s choir and we were discussing who we could invite next year to have this happen again. Thank you for the feedback, I like their suggestions.

Question (Succession Planning): What actions are being implemented to strengthen succession planning within UTMB? We have a significant number of former employees brought back as contractors due to failed planning for their retirement.

Response:

We have begun to introduce a people planning process at UTMB that includes succession planning as a component. This process will, in the future, be integrated within the overall performance management (employee evaluation) process at UTMB. We hope to have the process in place throughout the institution by the end of FY2016. It will take at least this amount of time since managers/leaders must be trained how to develop, use, and maintain their People Plans.

Question (Pedestrian Crossing): There is a pedestrian crossing behind Bldg. 21 on 6th Street which is used by many people. Due to construction of the Jennie Sealy Hospital, anyone walking south from  Harborside Drive on the west sidewalk has to cross the street at this location, and employees who work both in Clay Hall and in Bldg. 21 are crossing the street there several times a day. The markings on the road are almost gone and very few drivers slow down or stop for pedestrians. Could you please contact people on campus responsible for traffic regulation and ask them to make crossing lines on the asphalt brighter and possibly install a Pedestrian Crossing sign near it? It would make our life much safer! (Posted 11/13/14)

Response: 

Our team has reviewed the 6th street crosswalk and will implement a plan to make the area safer for pedestrians.  Thank you for bringing this to our attention! (Business Operations and Facilities)

Question (CMC Naps):  Why can’t CMC employees take a nap during an approved break period?  (Posted 11/13/14)

Response:    

Sleeping is not permissible in the correctional setting due to security related concerns.

Question (CMC Employee Discounts):  How can CMC employees obtain a UTMB discount without a UTMB employee badge? (Posted 11/13/14)

Response: 

Some vendors only require a UTMB email address with a photo id as proof of employment. Non-exempt CMC staff should have received a time clock name badge with the UTMB logo that may be shown with a photo id as proof of employment.

Question (Vacation Time): To help improve staff retention, would it be possible to “cash out” vacation time on an annual basis up to a certain limited amount of hours versus only upon separation or retirement? (Posted 11/13/14)

Response:  

This is not possible at this current time due to the way that state law is written.  According to the Texas Government Code Sec. 661.152,  ENTITLEMENT TO ANNUAL VACATION LEAVE, “An employee is entitled to carry forward from one fiscal year to the next the net balance of unused accumulated vacation leave that does not exceed the maximum number of hours allowed under Subsection (d).  All hours of unused accumulated vacation leave that may not be carried forward at the end of a fiscal year under this subsection and Subsection (d) shall be credited to the employee’s sick leave balance on the first day of the next fiscal year.” 

Question (ePerformance):   Concerns regarding recent changes in the Performance Management system:

    • Starting the process in June essentially eliminates three months of work from consideration – 25% of the fiscal year.
    • The change from five rating levels to three naturally results in a “compression” of ratings: mine has gone from above average to average, notwithstanding all protestations that “Meets” is a very “good/solid” rating.  The quality and quantity of my work has not changed.  Even HR’s explanation (in a video) of documenting “Meets” explicitly describes two extremes, one barely a “Meets” and the other just short of “Exceeds” – clearly two ratings within one descriptor.
    • Given the importance and impact of the reduction to three rating levels, one would expect a well-designed and executed plan of communication, clearly presenting UTMB leadership’s thinking and rationale for the change.  A Culture of Trust would require this open communication, accompanied by Q&A with, and feedback from, employees.  Instead, all that is said is that “UTMB leadership decided.”  (Posted 11/13/14)

Response: 

HR is still collecting feedback and will be submitting that feedback to executive leadership.  At that point decisions will be made about needed changes in the ePerformance system as well as any training needs that exist.  This will all be done to allow sufficient time for utilization of ePerformance for the next evaluation. 

Question (Ebola):  I recently began working at the Galveston County Medical Examiner’s Office located in Texas City. My concern has to do with the sanitization procedures, access to the proper equipments/sanitization products, and how this relates to the contraction of infectious diseases, such as the Ebola virus. If a decedent who died of Ebola were to end up at the Medical Examiner’s office, we would have little to no way of knowing until it was too late, and at that point, the entire office as well as anyone who came into contact with us or through the facility, would all be infected. (Posted 11/13/14)

Response:  

In the unfortunate event that a patient with Ebola was treated and died at UTMB, the protocol we have in place addresses the safe handling of the patient’s body after death.   At present the CDC is prohibiting autopsy on patients infected with Ebola and therefore we would not be transferring the body to the Medical Examiner’s office.

Question (TDCJ Hospital Training):   Why was the training and stickers for patient charts set up differently for TDCJ patients?  Why was training not offered in the TDCJ work areas? (Posted 10/23/14)

Response:  

In relation to Barcode Medication Administration (BCMA), the delay in the TDCJ Hospital go live was due to the wireless upgrade.  Once the upgrade was completed, BCMA was initiated.  The staff were encouraged to attend training with the entire campus prior to John Sealy Hospital’s go live and a refresher course was arranged at TDCJ Hospital a week prior and during the week of go live.  In addition, the difference the staff may be noticing is because most of the issues identified in the original go live have been corrected.

Different training/educational offerings are provided at TDCJ Hospital.  There have been barcode scanning classes, skills fair, teach back, and several oncology educational programs provided at TDCJ Hospital.

However, due to the newly renovated classrooms at research building 6 and Rebecca Sealy with already built AV equipment, several courses are located there.  TDCJ Hospital leadership will work with Human Resources in the future to see if more educational classes can be offered at TDCJ Hospital.

Question (Environmental Service): Why is there less staff at night to remove trash and dirty linens? (Posted 10/23/14)

Response:

UTMB’s TransVac System, which is designed to transfer trash and soiled linen through large tubes to dumpsters or to the soiled linen holding area, has not been operational since it was damaged in Hurricane Ike. Within the next several months, the vacuum and gravity-fed system should be operational, allowing for more efficient and frequent transfer of trash and soiled linen. (Biohazard waste is transported manually according to infection control protocols, and is not handled through the TransVac system). Currently, during a 24-hour period, about 70 percent of all trash, soiled linen and waste is generated during the day shift ( 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.), and five Environmental Services techs are on site to handle the transfer. Fewer techs are on site during the remaining shifts, when less trash, linen and waste is generated. It is anticipated that there will be improvements once the TransVac System is once again operational.

Question (Sick Pool):  Would UTMB consider reviewing the sick pool leave? It seems that if you have time you would like to designate towards a co-worker it should be your right to do so. Also, can HR advise how much time is in the sick-pool leave and why does it have to ONLY go to life-threatening requests? (Posted 10/23/14)

Response: 

UTMB does not have a funded pool as Sick Leave is not funded and encumbered in the budget.  If Sick Leave Pool is awarded, the individual department is responsible for salary continuation.  As a State Agency, UTMB adheres to the Regents Rules in the Texas Human Resources Management Statutes Inventory and aligns with other UT System Institutions for the criteria for Sick Leave Pool.The Sick Leave Pool follows the UTMB IHOP 03.05.01 which is regularly reviewed according to UTMB Policy.  Awards are based solely on information provided by the Physicians Medical Statement and based on specific criteria.  UTMB considers all requests submitted to the committee of Qualified Employee Peers.  (See also related post from 10/7/13)

Question (Ebola):  Where can I find more information on UTMB’s response to Ebola? (Posted 10/20/14)

Response: 

Visit UTMB’s web site for more specific information and facts about Ebola at: utmb.edu/ebola-response.

Question (EAC Blog):  Can a web link be set up on the CMCHOME page for CMC employees to access the EAC blog? (Posted 10/16/14)

Response: 

A link to the EAC web page is currently posted on the left hand side of the front CMCHOME page directly above the eGEM card.

Question (Travel Reimbursement):  Why does it take 30 days to receive travel reimbursement?  Some employees are unable to incumber the expenses in order to attend classes, cover units, etc. I received an email 2 weeks after submission stating that all the information was not attached. I think that is a long turn around time just to read the email submission and state it was not complete.  (Posted 10/1/14)

Response: 

Travel reimbursements can be delayed within the department or in Accounts Payable, depending upon the reason, such as missing necessary documentation, required approvals, etc.Accounts Payable is to process expense reports within 5-7 business days of when the documentation is received.  There may be circumstances, due to high volume, that Accounts Payable may take longer to process.In order for expense reports to be processed in a timely manner, all of the following criteria must be met, which includes, all necessary documentation is received in Accounts Payable, expense report has been submitted and all departmental approvals have been done, and the expense report has adhered to all UTMB policies and guidelines.

Question (Indigent Care):  How will the growth in population with the new housing development (in Galveston) fall in line with the mission of the institution? We will have an influx of indigent patients and more than likely our Emergency Services Department will have its hands full, so to speak. (Posted 9/29/14)

Response: 

UTMB is currently engaged with both city and county groups to improve community education regarding the availability of community health services.  The Galveston 4 C’s Clinics (Coastal Health and Wellness) are now the “health home” for a large number of community residents.  That assures that these individuals have better access to coordinated health care, mental health services, and specialty services.  As a part of the human capital plan for the new housing being built in Galveston, residents will receive education and assistance in enrolling in community based clinics, wellness programs, and resources to encourage appropriate utilization of health care resources.

Question (EPIC):  How do I submit a request for a change in EPIC? (Posted 8/13/14)

Response: 

A request for change may be submitted using the project request system:  https://my.utmb.edu/svc/.  Requests may include an upgrade or modification of an existing application, replacement of an existing application, new application, interface, report, training, process improvement, etc.

Question (TDCJ Patients):  Why are TDCJ patients refused care in our ER in violation of the 8th amendment? TDCJ Triage was designed as a safety net to ensure that direct admits receive adequate care and are assigned a hospital bed based on level of care needed. TDCJ patients who need direct emergency room care are routinely diverted to triage with the misconception that triage is capable of handling an ER level of care. Triage is not an ER. Triage is composed of one RN and one doctor on call. A non-incarcerated patient arriving to any other clinic in the hospital who needed ER care would go directly to the ER. (Posted 8/7/14)

Response: 

Over the past few years, as the Correctional Managed Care program has developed partnerships with local hospitals closer to prison units to improve quality and efficiency in providing emergency care, Hospital Galveston has transitioned to a transfer facility. This means that patients coming to Hospital Galveston should be in stable condition and not in need of emergency-level care upon arrival. The triage area was developed to meet the needs of the patient while awaiting an inpatient bed. If a patient’s condition changes while being transported to Hospital Galveston the patient will be taken directly to the UTMB Emergency Department for care.  If a patient’s status has changed while in Hospital Galveston Triage, Rapid Response will be called and the patient will be transferred to a critical care bed within TDCJ.   TDCJ Leadership and Emergency Department Faculty/ Nursing leadership meet on a regular basis to ensure top quality care for all of our patients.  UTMB is committed to ensuring timely emergency services to all patients in need of the appropriate level of care.

Question (Handicap Parking):  How do I obtain temporary handicap parking in UTMB parking garages & lots? (Posted 8/7/14)

Response: 

The Parking Office will provide employees that have doctor’s notes closer, proximal parking for the duration of their injuries. Parking in handicapped spaces requires an official handicapped permit, per the law, and in good faith to those who indeed do have the government issued handicapped placard.

Question (Security Cameras):  Security cameras were installed on our departmental floor (end of the hallways) to make sure no equipment is stolen.  The cameras are programmed to record upon motion in each of the camera ranges.  Can the recorded footage be used for or against employees regarding their arrival or departure times?  Who has access to the camera footage and why? (Posted 5/8/14)

Response: 

Cameras are for the safety and security of employees and UTMB resources.  Only those law enforcement and Information Services (IS) personnel responsible for maintaining security will be viewing footage obtained by these cameras.  They are not used for management of employees in any capacity.

Question (Merit Raises):  What is the maximum one can receive on a merit raise? (Posted 3/21/14)

Response: 

Departments have a 3% pool of money to distribute to employees receiving a merit.  How much is given to each employee is based on performance.  There is no maximum or minimum for each employee but a manager cannot spend more than their total pool on merits.

Question (Tobacco Policy):  The tobacco ban effective for UTMB facilities and properties, does it apply to CMC and properties rented that CMC uses? (Posted 3/18/13)

Response: 

If we (UTMB, CMC) rent a facility, the tobacco ban applies.  If we are in a TDCJ facility (not a rental), we do not control the facility and therefore it is at the authority of the controlling body (usually the warden).

Question (Town Hall and MIM): Where can I view Town Hall and Mondays in March videos? (Posted 3/7/14)

Response:

Town Hall videos may be viewed at http://www.utmb.edu/townhall/ and Mondays in March videos may be viewed at http://www.utmb.edu/mondays-in-march/. Special video links have been created for CMC employees.

Question (GEM Card Program): Why has there been a delay in posting GEM Honorees and Winners for 2013? Are people still being entered in the drawings? (Posted 10/15/13)

Response:

There have been technical issues with the system and we are currently working to resolve them. However, staff should be assured that they are still being entered in the drawings. If you have any feedback or new ideas for GEM awards, please forward your suggestions to Ms. Phaedra Goffney, with Organizational Workforce & Development.

Question (Sick Pool): Aco-worker recently applied for the sick pool, but was denied because her illness was not seen as a catastrophic event. So what constitutes catastrophic? What is UTMB’s sick pool policy? (Posted 10/7/13)

Response:

A sick leave pool has been established at UTMB Health to provide benefits-eligible employees with a source of additional paid leave to assist with a catastrophic illness or injury. While a diagnosis such as cancer is considered a serious medical condition that would qualify for unpaid leave protected under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), it does not automatically ensure the employee will receive a sick leave pool award.

Withdrawals from the pool are considered on an individual basis based on medical documentation provided by a physician. This documentation is reviewed by a panel of UTMB Health professionals to determine if the illness or injury meets the criteria for a catastrophic, life-threatening condition, as defined in Texas Government Code Section 661.002 and IHOP Policy 3.5.1. An employee’s financial status has no impact on the panel’s decision to grant sick leave pool awards.

Sick leave pool is an additional benefit offered to State employees, but it is not meant to replace short- or long-term disability insurance for income protection. Sick leave pool withdrawals are intended to cover the employee’s catastrophic period only and not his or her entire recovery period.

For more information about FMLA and the institution’s sick leave pool eligibility requirements, please contact Leave Management at (409) 747-4645.

Question (EAC Role):  Is the EAC like the former CMC Human Development (HD) program? (Posted 3/6/13)

Response: 

The EAC is not the same as HD.  EAC is not involved in employee coaching or training.  The EAC is simply a voice for employees and the EAC tries to help address policy issues and concerns by directing them to the appropriate responsible entity.  Generally, employees should follow their chain of command in addressing personal issues or concerns.

Question (EAP Referral):  Do you refer to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP)? (Posted 3/6/13)

Response:

EAC will refer to the EAP if necessary but we are not in the same department.

Question (CMC Nursing Vacancies):  Is anyone trying to combine or thinking about combining the hard to fill part-time nursing positions within CMC? (Posted 3/6/13)

Response: 

These are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.  Combining these positions often lead to short or absent staffing every other weekend. If there is enough justification to show that two positions can be combined and continue to meet patient care needs without compromising patient safety or quality, these are generally approved budget permitting.

 

Mondays in March – March 3, 2014

Danny O. Jacobs, MD, MPH, FACS

Executive Vice President, Provost and Dean of the School of Medicine

Question: Can you explain (1) why the Faculty Compensation Committee appointed by leadership to provide faculty input regarding the compensation plan never met to discuss the compensation plan; and (2) when a report was needed to support the plan, the chair of the committee was summoned to the Provost’s office and told what to write in the report?

Response: 

The Faculty Compensation Committee met six times in 2013 and helped develop expectations, guiding principles and fundamental tenets for the compensation plan. Input was requested from this committee as well as from work groups. Based in no small part on input from the committee, meetings were then held with Chairs, Administrative Support Group directors, faculty members and others to seek additional feedback. The input from these groups generated more than 90 modifications that were incorporated into the final document that was sent by Dr. Callender to Dr. Raymond Greenberg, UT System Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs for approval. Part two of the question is not substantiated by the facts. The current committee chair did not write a report on the compensation plan and was not asked to do so.

 

Mondays in March – March 17, 2014

Donna K. Sollenberger, MA 

Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer, UTMB Health System

Question:  According to the American Nurses Association, it is an ethical responsibility of the employee and employer to take measures to prevent fatigue so that it does not impact the patient care and outcomes. The Night Nursing Council has been facilitating quarterly health promotion events in partnership with UTMB’s health promotion team, which were very well received by the staff. It was brought to the council’s attention that although employees have been advised to step away from the work areas to take their breaks, there isn’t a place to go to, especially for the night shift.  A suggestion from employees was that leadership consider looking into providing a relaxation room for the employees with some simple exercise equipment—a place where they can take a break and also feel safe.   

Response: 

It’s no secret – many departments across UTMB are short on break areas. Unfortunately, space is tough to come by in the John Sealy Hospital. However, there are some areas currently available for breaks and wellness.There is currently an area in Research Building 6 on the 5th floor near Patient Services. The alcove is equipped with an exercise bike and a stretch trainer. The chapel, located on the first floor of John Sealy is open all hours and offers a quiet space to relax. There is also an area just off the first floor hallway leading to the UHC building with a seating area that is rarely used but might offer the opportunity to sit, relax or to stretch and move about.In general, as renovations and new construction continue, UTMB employees can look forward to having more places to sit back and enjoy their break time—new clinics will include break areas as a requirement. In addition, plans for the new Jennie Sealy Hospital include designated employee break rooms on all floor levels.*Gerald Cleveland, Director of Health Promotions, is pleased to assist in providing equipment if/when approved spaces or rooms are identified for use as break areas.

Question: I am concerned that as a leading institution, UTMB-Galveston has not yet established a program that will assist clinical employees in pursuing a higher level of education while retaining status as a full-time employee. The Work School Program, though no longer in existence, used to accommodate this need. It seems that other professionals seeking advancement have still been able to do so, either through online courses or an altered work schedule. What is being done to provide the same opportunities for clinical employees?

Response: 

UTMB plans to implement  a School at Work approach in FY2015. Planning for this approach has already begun. There will be detailed communications at the beginning of FY2015 as we begin to roll out the program.

Question:   I would love to see the full webcast of Dr. Callender’s Town Hall meeting; however, due to registry restrictions, CMC employees are not able to open the link. What can be done to resolve this issue?

Response: 

Sometimes the ability for CMC locations to access intranet links is impacted by the very limited network bandwidth available to many of the prison clinics. Information Services will be working with Dr. Owen Murray to make a request via TDCJ to the Legislature to expand the network bandwidth to support more network intensive needs such as X-ray image transfer, for example. I.S. is also working on implementing a new piece of technology that will allow what is called “multicasting”, and this will alleviate much of the network bandwidth concern. This should be available by the end of this fiscal year. In addition, a special windows media version of Town Hall meetings, as well as the Mondays in March presentations has been established for CMC viewers, accessible via the CMC internal website at http://cmc.utmb.edu/cmchome/.

 

Mondays in March – March 4, 2013

Donna K. Sollenberger, MA 

Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer, UTMB Health System

Click here to watch the video broadcast and hear the questions below answered(http://vimeo.com/61199174)

  • Why is there not continuing education funding for nurses?  I would like for UTMB to find funding for work study programs again for LVNs to go back to school to get a RN degree.  Can UTMB offer a student loan forgiveness program?  It would help significantly in the recruiting process and UTMB/CMC would likely gain more licensed staff members.
  • I have been with UTMB CMC for almost five years and have been a LVN for almost 18 years.  I have not had a salary increase in the time that I have been with CMC.  I don’t want to change jobs because I do like my job but it’s getting to the point where I cannot support my family with the income I have.
  • This issue concerns privacy when calling in to a manager to take days off.  That conversation needs to be kept private. It is wrong for management to tell other employees details.
  • What is UTMB’s policy on Flex-Time? Is this something that the Health System supports?
  • Will the new UTMB Connect project impact patient care due to physicians having more administrative responsibilities?  Will it take doctors away from patients?
  • Recently, in the Galveston County Daily News, there was an article about the $90 million Victory Lakes Expansion project.  How is this being funded and will this project (along with the building of the new hospital) impact UTMB’s finances – risking employee job security, merit increases, etc.?  Is too much being done all at once when the economy is not in the best shape, and there is uncertainty about Health Care Reform and how hospitals and physicians will be reimbursed?
  • It seems like lately UTMB favors recruiting from outside the organization versus promoting from within, especially in leadership positions.  Do we not have qualified people who can advance, or is there a reason for new recruits from outside?

 

Mondays in March – March 11, 2013

Danny O. Jacobs, MD, MPH, FACS

Executive Vice President, Provost and Dean of the School of Medicine

Click here to watch the video broadcast and hear the questions below answered(http://vimeo.com/61801598)

  • What is the institution’s strategy for recruiting and retaining more research faculty and growing research on campus?
  • Regarding the “culture of trust” at UTMB, how can we, as employees, be expected to trust leadership when they don’t have timely and transparent communication?  For instance, the School of Medicine underwent a massive reorganization over two months ago, and there still has not been a formal communication regarding those changes. People don’t know where they belong organizationally, and it’s unclear who is responsible for what.
  • Increases in efficiency have been cited for many departmental changes, as well as for the denial of additional positions.  Even after reorganization over the last year has moved many responsibilities from finance and HR to Institutional Support, the Office of the Provost has remained fully intact and continues to add FTEs.  When will the Office of the Provost be held to the same level of efficiency expected in other departments?
  • Recently,  individuals across the institution have been removed from their positions for not meeting minimum education requirements. However, individuals in the Provost’s Office in similar types of positions have not been removed due to educational insufficiencies. Why is there a double standard?
  • What effect will the recent sequestration have on UTMB, specifically our research enterprise?
  • Morale is at an all-time low. Employees do not trust leadership, and fear losing their jobs. What is being done to improve these conditions?
  • We have less funding, no post docs, and more clinical research.  Can we change current tenure requirements to reflect the changing research reality?

 

Mondays in March – March 18, 2013

William R. Elger, CPA, CGMA

Executive Vice President and Chief Business and Finance Officer

Click here to watch the video broadcast and hear the questions below answered(http://vimeo.com/62286244)

  • Why aren’t all application system issues/downtime/delays posted on the iUTMB Alert page? It seems that only patient related systems like Epic, and on occasion, PeopleSoft FMS are posted on the webpage. Other systems such as Oracle Workspace and its subsystems: financial reporting, etc., and HCM Datamart, as well as others, are rarely, if ever, posted to the flash page.
  • Housekeeping services continue to be a problem across campus. After repeated service calls, even to management, there has still been no improvement. Additionally, the recent changes in contractor have resulted in even worse service than Sodexo provided. In executive areas, housekeeping services are more frequent and of better quality.  Since the contract rates are most likely consistent across campus, why can’t other areas have the same attention?  Also, why aren’t the offices and corridors cleaned after hours when there is less foot traffic. It’s hazardous to be mopping floors between 8:00am to 5:00pm.  Additionally, we were informed that the non-hospital areas would no longer be cleaned over the weekend. This is problematic because non-patient care employees still work on weekends, and non-patient care buidings, such as the Annex, still get use both via corridors and in restrooms over the weekend by employees, patients, and their families.
  • Are there plans to provide opportunities for professional development and continuing education for non-executive staff? There is no standardization across the institution and it usually depends on if you have the budget.
  • Why can’t we have some products from the bookstore located somewhere off the island so that it is easier to purchase for the employees who work and live off the island?
  • Can we get Employee Assistance Program services off the island so that the employees that live and work off island can have easier access and take more advantage of the services they offer?
  • Can parking garages be opened, since so many student spots have been taken away due to construction?
  • Has UTMB considered revisiting the idea of flex scheduling for its employees?

 

Mondays in March – March 25, 2013

David Callender, MD, MBA, FACS

President

Click here to watch the video broadcast and hear the questions below answered  (http://vimeo.com/62833674)

  • Work-life balance, telecommuting and flex-time are hot topics in the workplace. What is UTMB doing to help with this?
  • Are there areas being planned in the new Jennie Sealy Hospital for employees to have a quiet place to take their break? There is not enough space in John Sealy Tower.
  • Is there a better way to schedule an 8-hour unit where nurses do not have to work 7 days straight without overtime in order to have every other weekend off? Who has priority over the schedule: full-time or part-time employees?  Why is it that you can’t change your days if you need a day off?
  • Prior to Ike, UTMB had on-site child care available for its employees. What needs to happen to bring this back?