The partnership built between Allegheny General Hospital and the largest healthcare union in North America, SEIU Healthcare was praised Wednesday by United States Labor Secretary, Thomas Perez.
“This hospital, this health system, has rejected that false choice that you either take care of your bottom line or you take care of your workers or you take care of your patients,” said Perez as he visited AGH, “You can do all of those, and you have demonstrated it here.”
Perez showed true admiration when talking about the changes the hospital has made in an effort to make it run more smoothly. The partnership began in October 1999 with a focus on patients and the nursing staff.
Before the partnership, the hospital would approach the task of getting a patient better by thinking of the type of care needed, but after implementing a four hour training process, called the Hearts of Gold Program, the hospital began to focus on building relationships with patients during treatment.
After the change the hospital reported a record breaking 94% patient satisfaction rate. That was the highest percentage ever reported by the national hospital survey Press Ganey.
The hospital also standardized its Nurse Patient Assignment Sheets which tell nurses where to be and when. The sheets used to ignore the amount of time need to move between patients and individual care time. It also resulted in encouraging many nurses to skip lunch which caused problems with overtime. Now through listening to the nurses the hospital says it is able to run much more smoothly and has saved a projected $2 million through lack of overtime and more patient-focused care.
The U.S. Secretary also toured local manufacturing facility, Allegheny Technologies, while he was in town. The Secretary said from there he took away an example of labor management cooperation, and from the hospital he observed and admired a “we’re all in it together” attitude by listening to everyone’s ideas.
“I didn’t have any original ideas, but the thing I always prided myself in, is what the ethic is here, which is I was an active listener, and I was never reluctant to steal, good ideas that is, and that is what is happening here,” said Perez.