A Change Would Do You Good

October 24, 2017

A tale of two hospital takeovers from a radiologist who lived through them.

In my now 15 years of being a radiologist, I have had the fortune/misfortune of being involved in two hospital takeovers. Not sure how that ranks in terms of other radiologists, but I can say that speaking from experience, the two transitions have been radically different.

There will always be that air of uncertainty amongst the medical staff and hospital employees as to what the new hospital or hospital system will bring. Will things be better when the new hospital or healthcare system take over? Will things be worse? Will my job change? Will I lose my job? Often the powers that be will start to send out information, usually via e-mail with the same politically correct, administrative rhetoric such as “All employees of Hospital X who are in good standing, can be assured that they will maintain their current position when Hospital Y takes over.” That’s all fine and dandy unless you’re the low man on the totem pole at work, and your boss tells you that he or she’s been told that everyone’s expendable. All of this creates a great deal of stress and angst.

As all of us with a little grey in our hair know, change can come in many different forms. Noticeable changes that are positive could mean upgrades to equipment, deeper staffing, improvement in benefits, or increase in salary. Other less impactful positive changes might include more time off, better food in the cafeteria, or even a better parking spot closer to the hospital entrance. All of these changes could of course go the opposite way, and as a result have a negative impact.

The first hospital takeover I was subjected to was of a very formal nature. It was meticulously planned, and calculated to the exact minute. We would be closing the doors on an old, physically deteriorating building that had existed for over 100 years and would be moving into a state of the art, breathtakingly beautiful $300 million facility. I will never forget the actual day of the move when the remaining 15 or so patients were put into ambulances and driven to the new hospital, while the doors of the hospital that I had spent the first 12 years of my career were padlocked shut, and the lights turned off. It was a very sad moment for me.

Meanwhile, the new hospital was opened, the lights were turned on, the CT scanners revved up, and we were open for business. Yours truly was selected to be on call the very first night, and I will never forget being the first radiologist to dictate an ankle X-ray as the first imaging study performed at the new hospital. Was I nervous? Absolutely. So much so that I blew right through a fracture of the calcaneous, before I recognized that I had overlooked it. Right away, change was evident. It was amazing to have brand new equipment that worked, doors that didn’t squeak, 5-star food in the cafeteria, spit shine floors and walls without scuff marks from stretchers banging in to them, comfortable chairs at my workstation, and even toilet paper in every bathroom!

Hospital staff smiled, security guards said hello to you, administrators walked the halls in a state of utopia, and patients were thrilled to be admitted to rooms that were all private, and had 42-inch flat screen TV’s in them. Things couldn’t have been better.

To contrast that, the second hospital takeover has been something of a totally different experience. Not necessarily for the worse; just different. This one occurred over a weekend, so from the get go; there was less hype and certainly less presence of the change, as it happened on a Saturday. The hospital was actually not closing as in the first situation, but had merely been sold to a new healthcare system. As in the first takeover, the months and days leading up to the takeover were filled with nervousness and anxiety amongst the staff members, as there had been little to no communication from the new hospital system as to what to expect.

All we were told was, “Wait until October 2, and then we can tell you everything and we will share everything with you, in terms of what to expect.” OK, fine, I could wait until October 2. I knew that my job was secure, I knew that I wasn’t going to be moving anywhere, and my experience had instilled in me that things wouldn’t be that much different. Well, guess what? Its now October 20, and I haven’t seen one measurable change since the new hospital took over. My parking spot is the same, my computer tinkers along and still crashes once or twice every day; the food in the cafeteria is the same. Even my ID badge still says the old hospital name on it. Oh wait a minute, check that. I did attend a banner roll out, on the hospital front lawn where they unfurled a 15-foot banner with the new hospital name on it, and they gave out free hand sanitizer and Chap Stick to all that attended. I guess it could have been worse. You know what they say; “A change would do you good.”