Shouldn’t we have seen it coming?
A number of sources, including Patrick Howington of the Courier-Journal, have reported that KentuckyOne Health recently dismissed its entire internal legal department. Other layoffs in the name of “streamlining” are foreseen. This, of course, is no surprise. After all, laying people off to reduce overhead is one of the reasons companies merge, isn’t it? I mean who didn’t see this coming? In fact, during the only two-sided public debate before the last merger attempt collapsed, one audience member asked the merger proponents what they probably thought was a supportive question related to the wonderful number of new jobs that would be created– right? The merger proponents embarrassingly had to hem and haw about how that might not be the case. In fact, the hospital partners of the current KentuckyOne Health entity have been laying people off for many months. Despite lots of flashy advertising, business has not been good. Artificial hearts and occasional hand transplants do not alone a well-rounded and efficiently-run hospital make. The results of several decades of unsuccessful management will take some time to alter. I am hopeful that more attention to their core business will pay off. The downtown medical center needs all its hospitals to be willing to cooperate in the public interest. We do not have that at the present time.
Who says we have to trade jobs for doing the right thing?
How can we get back that which the public is entitled to from these not-for-profit and even public corporations? Perhaps a little corporal discipline from our highest public officials would help. I urge Mayor Fischer to involve himself more. Publicly, he seemed to me to remain pretty much on the sidelines during the past and present merger controversy. I am told that in private meetings he spoke of the dilemma of trading away nondiscriminatory women’s access to comprehensive healthcare, for jobs and economic development. If so, he showed willingness to accept the University Gang’s assertion that to have one we must give up the other. From my perspective as a physician, I do not have to share the dilemma of our Mayor. It looks to me like jobs are flying away anyway.
First Fly the Hospital!
When I was taking flying lessons, my instructor taught me that the first rule for a pilot was to “fly the airplane.” Ignore all other distractions until the plane was under control in stable level flight. Some of our hospitals have ignored their version of this rule and allowed themselves to be drawn off course by the beacons of commercial research, and to allow themselves to be hijacked by venture capitalists and other investors. I say to my hospital friends: Get your hospitals into stable flight. Stop crashing into the hospitals next to you. Some of your quality measurements are not so good. Get your core businesses in order. Community benefit is not measured in patents and licenses, profits for your favored community investors, nor self-promotional programs masquerading as community education. You have your non-profit status as a gift from the public you claim to serve. Patients are walking away from some of you for good reason. Take good care of them, and they will take good care of you.
Peter Hasselbacher M.D.
March 7, 2012