Plans for new hospital boost staff morale

A year ago, GW Hospital was abuzz with talk of the University’s decision to establish a partnership with Universal Health Services Inc., one of the largest hospital management corporations in the country.

Employees anxiously awaited news of their futures, and wondered how working conditions might change.

They faced concerns about every aspect of work at the hospital, from potential changes in their benefits to the possibility that instability during the transition would adversely impact the hospital’s residency program.

Today, the talk around GW Hospital is different.

Employees speak now of the impending construction of the new 400-bed hospital due to be finished by 2001, and of the changes they have seen in the year since the GW-UHS merger.

“I have noticed mostly good changes,” said Tom Ryan, a trauma technologist in the emergency room. “This administration is much more receptive to our concerns and ideas and more visible on a daily basis. There really are some definitive changes.”

Employees said changes range from the barely noticeable to the hugely significant, from cleaner floors to the hospital administration’s new open-door policy toward employee ideas.

Most of the differences between the hospital of a year ago and the one of today have been internal, Ryan said. Few of them would be easily identifiable to the patients who come through the facility’s doors.

“I think people have always had great customer service at the hospital. I’ve heard that in other areas, though, that customer service is a lot better and that patients are happier with the care they receive,” Ryan said.

Pris Joyner, a nurse in the emergency care unit, described Universal’s organization as “very user-friendly as compared to the University. And the place is so much cleaner than it was before. It’s really unbelievable.”

But not all employees had the same assessment of the hospital’s progress.

Mary Pat McKay, a resident in the emergency room, echoed only Joyner’s appraisal of the hospital’s cleanliness.

“So far, the only difference I can identify is that the floors are cleaner,” McKay said.

“Changes? I have seen nothing,” said Debbie, an ER registered nurse who declined to give her last name. “I am just waiting for the new hospital. The general attitude here is that we’re all just happy about the new hospital. UHS is, of course, much more corporate and a little more efficient, but other than that there aren’t many differences at all.”

Debbie also said UHS kept the promise it made last year by keeping all hospital staff members employed.

“Everyone that was here before has stayed, at least in this unit. It has worked out well in that area,” she said.

Registration representative Ruby Smith said she is excited about the construction of the new hospital, a building that will feature private patient rooms, state-of-the-art medical technology and expanded emergency facilities.

“I’m definitely looking forward to that,” she said. “There won’t be as much tension because there’ll be a lot more room. We just can’t wait until it opens.”

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