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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Financial Stress Trickles Down

Swedish Hospital is the largest non-profit hospital in Seattle, and they could be in trouble. But there is something they could do... Maybe take lessons from Waste Management?

Posted on September 21, 2011 .... Swedish was about to layoff 150 employees. The hospital is in money trouble and believe a big part of the problem is due to thousands of uninsured, costing the hospital millions. Brill states, "Swedish is not alone with nearly 150 layoffs. Providence Hospital in Everett will drop 150 to 175 positions. Multicare in Tacoma to lose 300 to 350 positions. Many other hospitals are struggling too."

During our extended visit in Swedish, word came down there was another layoff, and the hospital staff - from food workers to nursing - was in a buzz that shifted their focus from doing their job, to what's going to happen with their job. I've seen the same thing at the airlines inside the flightdeck. Distraction leads to errors.

Cutting the staff is not the solution to Swedish's problems.
Finding Hidden Pennies 

United Airlines saved about $50,000 a year by removing olives, lemon peels and grapefruit juice from their condiments. American Airlines saved $40,000 a years by removing one olives off the dinner salads. American Standard, a pluming fixture and air conditioning company saved $70,000 a year at one of their plants vacuuming their carpets instead of sending them out to be cleaned. Savings can be found in many places.

Saving Swedish
From what I've seen there are a lot of ways Swedish could save money. Simple things like reusing the plastic pitchers in the patient's room and refilling the water and ice with the plastic liners. The total of three weeks we spent in this hospital, I watch dozens of these go into the garbage can from our room. Some nurses brought refills with the liner, others tossed them.

Waste continued with the numerous rolls of unused tape that were left on shelves. Gauze pads for wound cleaning found there way in our room, and were never used. Scissors, suture removal kits, and tubing was left laying about. We were on quarantine for a few days and nothing could be reused.

Besides, I don't think any supplies going into a room can come out and be used for someone else. They weren't used and were thrown out. And the menus... we received 1-3 daily. Clear liquid. Partial liquid. Low Fiber. Full. I can't remember the names of each, but they had to have thrown 20+ of these away. Could they make laminated menus, chained to the beds, and keep them in the rooms and clean?

Who Is Paying?

Who is paying for these wasted supplies? Are the uninsured patients the only place bleeding this hospital?

What about the half a dozen meals that we ordered that were sent back because the various doctors changed diet requirements. Full liquid. Partial liquid. No fiber. Back to full liquid.

Who is paying for the "chest" xrays that were supposed to be taken of my husband's abdomen?

What about the broken IV and the half bag of liquid gold called TPN, and the lipids that were supposed to go into his body and had to be thrown away? 

TPN (Total Parental Nutrition) "A hospital may charge $2,000 just to place the catheter in. Home health agencies charge the patient's insurance or Medicare from $3,000 to $6,000 per week for the nutrition." Note: This was a 1998 price. Imagine now.

Who pays for the IV that burst in one arm, and because the PIC line had to be shared between antibiotics and the TPN, half the TPN had to be thrown out. Why didn't they put in a dual PIC line? Why didn't they make a smaller bag? Who is thinking?

Who pays for the pain meds, or Silver Nitrate, that the patient is prescribed, despite not taking any pain meds or the need for Silver Nitrate during their stay?

The Answer: We All Pay

Unless we bring this to someone's attention... nothing will ever get fixed. How has your company managed savings from waste?

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene


  1. I couldn't agree more. Most of the time cutting jobs is absolutely not the answer. Very thoughtful post, I hope it makes some in high places think!

    1. Thank you very much Heather. I hope so too. It's so sad when people lose their jobs when they don't need to. But... big business?

  2. All of that in the UK also ... plus trollying documents around instead of e mail ....over prescribing .... immeasurable waste of inedible food and countless wasted people that manage...nurses ..cleaners ... Ambulances... security ...IT ...and car parking instead of managing the care ...and worse no one picks up the screws ..... Great post Karlene

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Masaoota. I had no idea that the UK was that bad. Maybe we could fix all the hospitals. And yet we have a war on health care? I think it starts in the hospitals. Don't they know when we don't pick up the screws they put holes in our tires?

  3. End of the day its all about being on top of whatever we do and optimize to ensure that wastage is avoided, whether its stopping a hospital company, airline, etc running into losses, to the environment to stretch it to be livable for generations to come....

    1. Isn't this the truth. Even in our own homes. Imagine if we all took the efficiency approach to our environment how wonderful our world would be. Thank you for the great comment.

  4. Taking short break from touristing, and thought of this post when I read this article:
    Hospitals who have to are finding answers. (See Massachusetts example, pg. 2 of article) Important issue! Seriously important
    Back to Prague's beautiful streets, architecture, and BEER. :-)

    1. Linda, What a fabulous article. Thank you for sharing. Rewarding patients for their chronic conditions? Amazing. But the attitude of being part of the solution is essential.

      Thank you for stopping by during the middle of your vacation! Have fun! Prague is gorgeous!


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