Opinion: Porter’s actions alienate county

An open letter to the Porter Medical Center Board:
I am taking this initiative to communicate with you because I am concerned about the situation that is unfolding at Porter Medical Center. I think you need to be aware that an increasing number of people in Addison County are finding the actions being taken by the administration destructive and oppressive. I cite the following examples:
•  In suspending healthcare benefits for part-time employees, the administration has demonstrated a lack of commitment to the values and ethics of healthcare. It is nonsensical and painfully ironic that a healthcare institution would suspend healthcare benefits for its own employees. People who are long-time consumers of services provided by Porter Medical Center, as I am, want the front-line employees, both full- and part-time, to be granted healthcare benefits. To have it otherwise is absurd.
•  Laying off highly qualified nurses and replacing them with less qualified replacements does not engender confidence among those who are seeking services at Porter Medical. As clients, we expect to encounter fully credentialed and trained professionals in the physicians’ offices as well as in the direct care units of the hospital itself.
•  The employees who are losing benefits and being laid off are persons who have friends and family in this area of the state. These actions by the administration are causing wide-ranging and negative reactions among the very residents whose support Porter Medical depends on, residents who are expressing increasing concern about the wisdom of such moves by the administration.
•  My personal experience with the current Porter administration has been appalling. Last November I was a member of a group of about 12 persons attempting to deliver to the administration a petition containing the signatures of 1,000 Addison County residents. We explained that the purpose of the petition was to inform the Porter administration of the feelings of Addison County citizens regarding the suspension of healthcare benefits.
The response we received was disrespectful, characterized by insolent disdain. There was no one in the administrative offices gracious (or courageous) enough to receive the petition, and we were asked to leave. As we did, a security officer arrived to lock the doors of the administration office behind us.
There were those of us in the group who have been clients of Porter for more than 30 years, whose children have been born there, who have undergone surgery and emergency care there, and to be treated in this manner was most disheartening. Nothing about this experience led us to feel more positive about who these administrators are.
•  There is a sense among many in the county that this administration has been put in place for the purpose of carrying out retribution against the nurses who successfully unionized last spring. These kinds of union-busting tactics are well known to those of us who belong to unions ourselves, and so I am left with a feeling of disgust toward an institution that would resort to such a strategy. Again, these nurses are our neighbors and friends and family, and there is growing resentment about their treatment.
•  The extraordinary compensation paid to the new Porter CEO has become more common knowledge of late (Although the exact amount is apparently quite a closely guarded secret which I have been attempting to uncover for a couple of months now without success, it is generally assumed to be somewhere between $400,000 to $500,000 per annum, derived from the recently revealed amount paid the previous CEO…), and so it is with some incredulity that we receive the explanation that the layoffs and cuts in benefits are for the purpose of saving money and thereby staving off the financial demise of the medical center. It is just one more example of corporate-think: disposing of middle class front-line workers in order to extravagantly compensate a member of the 1 percent.
I am taking the time to write to you because I think that you need to know that the actions being taken by the Porter administration are alienating many among the public you seek to serve, and while it is true that local folks will probably continue to seek care at Porter, there being few other reasonable alternatives, that feeling that many Addison County people used to have for “their hospital,” a feeling of grateful affection, is fast fading. If asked to take sides between the nurses and the current administration, I am pretty certain that most Addison County folks will go with the nurses, no contest.
In spite of all that, I do want to thank you for your service to the community as a member of the board, which I can imagine is no easy task.
Millard Cox
The following citizens endorse this letter add their names:
Michele Fay, Judy Olinick, Bonnie DeGray, Michael Olinick, Christine Birong-Smith, George Klohck, Tracy Corbett, Julie Durkin Merritt, Bryan Alexander, Joseph Przyperhart, Peter Ryersbach, Nancy McFadden, Mary Worthington, Lynn Littler, Ellen D. Oxfeld and Warren King

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