University Medical Center held its the first public hearing on its 2017 budget on Wednesday, July 20. Frontline caregivers from UMC were there to present their quality-care agenda for El Paso’s community hospital. The UMC caregivers are members of SEIU Texas, a union that also includes employees at Del Sol, Las Palmas and Providence hospitals in El Paso.
“Healthcare workers across El Paso have united in SEIU Texas to advocate for the highest quality care at our hospitals,” said Veronica Marquez, a medical lab technologist who has worked at UMC for 25 years. “As caregivers, we are very excited to share our experience and insights with the leadership team at UMC so we can work together to provide great care to all El Pasoans.”
The UMC caregivers made their presentation to the UMC Board of Managers, focusing on four key agenda items:
• Safe Hospital, Healthy Patients. To ensure the highest standards of care, SEIU Texas proposes that UMC initiate a Health and Safety Committee made up of management and frontline workers to identify areas for improvement and to promote best practices. This pilot project would tap the experience of frontline employees to address health and safety issues like hospital-acquired infections.
• Smart Investments to Compete in El Paso. Last year, the County Commission invested in UMC’s workforce by raising the hospital’s minimum wage to $10 an hour. That move and other raises — particularly for workers making below $15 an hour — has reduced turnover in many positions. However, there are still many jobs where UMC pay lags the market. SEIU Texas proposes that in FY2017, UMC work with SEIU Texas to identify those job classes and invest in them to stay competitive.
• Hear Our Voices. Since 2010, more than 1,500 caregivers at Del Sol, Las Palmas and Providence hospitals have united in SEIU Texas and raised the standards for care at their facilities. Now UMC workers have formed a union with SEIU Texas. SEIU TX seeks to work cooperatively with UMC leadership to establish a relationship that fosters good will, innovation and open communication between employees and the administration. SEIU Texas proposes that UMC follow the example of the private sector hospitals in El Paso, as well as the City, County, and school districts in having a clear framework for working with employee organizations to improve the hospital.
• Affordable Health Care for ALL El Pasoans. UMC is often the only source of care for families who are uninsured, some of whom are also undocumented. Lacking access to care, they often must delay seeking treatment until they are very sick, leading to emergency room care that is five times more costly to patients and taxpayers alike. To ensure better, less costly care, SEIU Texas proposed that UMC create a study committee with hospital employees and managers, representatives from the Border Network for Human Rights, and other community stakeholders. They will hear from experts and innovators on this issue and form policy recommendations to be reported in June 2017.
SEIU Texas members spoke at last year’s UMC budget hearings and advocated for a number of improvements. Key among them was the need to raise the chronically low minimum wage. Following those hearings, UMC raised its minimum wage to $10 an hour.
The caregivers look forward to continuing this progress at UMC under the leadership of incoming CEO Jacob Cintron, who was named to the post last week. Cintron comes to UMC from Del Sol Medical Center, where he served as CEO when caregivers there formed a union with SEIU Texas.
In a statement released last week, SEIU Texas caregivers praised Cintron’s track record at Del Sol of “respecting workers’ choice to form a union and of building relationships between union workers and management. We look forward to working with him to provide the best possible care to the community we all love.”