Op-Ed

At Jackson, labor, management on the same team to deliver high-quality healthcare

Health professionals and management at Jackson Health System have partnered to deliver quality healthcare.
Health professionals and management at Jackson Health System have partnered to deliver quality healthcare. Jackson Health System

Everyone knows Jackson Health System and the miracles we make. You see the miracle of the legendary Venezuelan singer who hopes to return to the stage after a double lung transplant at age 75. You read about the Miami-Dade police major who walked at his daughter’s college graduation using advanced artificial limbs just a year after losing both legs in a life-threatening motorcycle crash. You hear about the unborn baby saved after her mother’s uterus ruptured, delivered at 28 weeks and weighing less than 3 pounds.

Each of these miracles can be traced back to one that’s happening much more quietly as Jackson learns to thrive in a new healthcare economy.

In 2010, years of complacent leadership, combined with the global recession, plunged Jackson into crisis. We averted short-term disaster by two bold decisions: Our huge workforce of nurses, therapists, doctors and other healthcare professionals agreed to painful pay cuts and other concessions worth $100 million a year, and Miami-Dade County’s elected leaders ushered in new leadership for the health system.

Those actions, among others, kept Jackson alive. But neither was enough to rebuild it as a vibrant, 21st-century healthcare system capable of protecting its legacy and destiny. Jackson needed more.

From that need, the Labor Management Partnership was born.

Learning from the legendary Kaiser Permanente system, leaders from Jackson’s SEIU Local 1991 union of nurses and other caregivers aligned with the health system’s executive team to create a true model for collaboration. For the first time, we formalized systems that would unite the different kinds of expertise found at different levels of the organization. Front-line caregivers had the kind of first-hand knowledge necessary to keep Jackson among the nation’s elite academic medical centers. They only needed an opportunity to contribute and a platform to be heard.

Managers and staff now are working together at every level. Nurses and doctors elected by their peers in the labor union sit with board members and executives to carry out Jackson’s $1.5 billion capital plan and plot a course forward on its healthcare strategy. Front-line experts and experienced managers work on system-wide initiatives to improve patient safety. And employees at every level are being trained in proven process-improvement frameworks to constantly upgrade the care on individual patient units.

Three years into this bold experiment, the partnership is a true win-win-win:

▪ Jackson benefits from its caregivers’ hard-earned knowledge of the way care actually works at the bedside, reducing unnecessary costs and improving efficiency in ways that make the health system and its budget permanently sustainable, even in an era of constant threats to our supplemental public funding.

▪ Employees benefit from the dignity and challenge of applying their first-hand knowledge to make improvements that cascade across their department and around the healthcare system. They learn the skills they need to grow as professionals and jump on the fast track to growing their careers.

▪ Most important, our patients benefit from receiving care that’s built on a holistic view of health and wellness. Jackson is a safer, more effective and more comfortable place than at any time in its 100-year history.

At a time when so much of our public service seems focused around zero-sum games and horse-race obsessions with power, Jackson Health System is proud to be charting its future on a path that’s above the fray. Every one of our team members believes passionately in Jackson’s cherished legacy and fights zealously for its best possible future. We must never retreat from our mission: a single high standard of care for everyone who lives in Miami-Dade County.

All our residents should be proud that Jackson’s second century of service is being built on a foundation of collaboration and best practices. Engaged front-line caregivers make it possible for Jackson to be more than the sum of its parts, with patients as the truest winners.

Carlos A. Migoya is president and CEO of Jackson Health System. Martha Baker is president of SEIU Local 1991.

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