Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

Monday, June 19, 2017 1:00 am

Lutheran staff longs for freedom

Bri Sailor

Bri Sailor is a registered nurse at Lutheran Hospital and an author.

Lutheran Health Network is attempting to break away from its current owner: Community Health Systems. I am not saying that everyone who works for CHS outside of LHN is some sort of villain; there are those who seek to reform policies and practices.

In early 2007, Triad (and by extension Lutheran Health Network) was bought out and taken over by CHS. To keep shareholders happy and maintain profits, CHS started to trim the fat. Benefits were cut, wages and salaries no longer remained competitive with the Fort Wayne economic climate, and budgets were slashed.

I work in an intensive care unit where we have had patients who had 90 minutes of CPR because they coded then were put on a complete heart and/or lung bypass machine, then miraculously were discharged – walking – a month later. The machine oxygenates and circulates the blood and reduces the workload of the patient. These patients require mechanical ventilation for life support and can end up on continuous bedside dialysis, as well as have as many as 20 critical medication drips keeping them alive. The nurse taking care of them takes care of only them.

When staff don't have properly working or outdated equipment, everyone ends up shorted. One small example is when staff have to share a simple vitals machine among 12 patients. This can result in delayed care. And if at least one patient is on active isolation precautions, this can increase the risk of the spread of infection, despite following proper protocol. Not only would it help against the spread of germs, but having a vitals machine/ heart monitor in every patient room would also make it easier on patients and staff as well as become an added measure for patient safety and well-being.

My unit works hard to ensure the safety of our patients. We all adhere to strict isolation precautions, neutropenic precautions and universal precautions.

When the physician walkout occurred during the meeting with a CHS representative, it wasn't because the physicians and investors were being childish, they were simply being ignored. The truth of the matter is that even if the physicians came with the amount that CHS was asking for, it is highly doubtful that they would let go of a prime cash cow.

Now the company has attempted to placate employees by promising to put $500 million into the LHN system over the next few years, and I truly hope it will make a difference.

In 2010, according to Forbes, among the top-earning, for-profit hospitals across the nation, Lutheran ranked No. 11 with $431 million in net revenue. In my research, I discovered that Parkview generated $446,858,338 in total revenue with $1,502,964,818 in assets as of 2014. That same year Lutheran generated $1.77 billion (before taxes), which translated to $350 million in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization.

Imagine what the network could be capable of if LHN were non-profit like Parkview.

The money LHN earned would be only the network's and would not go toward CHS's $15 billion debt. The entire network could be seriously upgraded.

Recently, we lost a great LHN leader. Brian Bauer fought until the very end for LHN and he deserves the utmost respect.

I think the Lutheran network is amazing. Physicians, nurses, techs and non-medical staff alike are the best around. I love my job and my co-workers. There is no place I'd rather be than my unit. I work with some of the smartest, most capable, compassionate, caring, empathetic, hard-working nurses that I've ever known.

I love taking care of my patients and hearing their stories. I have high hopes for the future and for the network, and by extension, the Fort Wayne community.

If the network becomes its own entity without corporate ownership, I can only imagine the great things that await.