What If We Paid Hospital Employees And Ambulance Drivers With ... Taxes?
It is an inevitable fact of life that every criticism of "at-will employment" will lead to at least one very wise person explaining that the system actually benefits both employers and employees, because although it means that an employer can fire you for any reason, it also means that you can quit for any reason as well. So there.
It's not a great point, because obviously people in other countries can quit their jobs for any reason they want, barring slavery ... but also because it's not necessarily always true, either. In many states, your employer can sue you for not giving them proper notice — but is not required, legally, to give you advance notice or severance.
In Wisconsin, a team of health care workers are currently being barred from leaving one job for another, on account of the fact that their soon-to-be-former employer says that people will be put in danger if they do quit.
Via Post Crescent:
ThedaCare requested Thursday that an Outagamie County judge temporarily block seven of its employees who had applied for and accepted jobs at Ascension from beginning work there on Monday until the health system could find replacements for them.
The employees were part of an 11-member interventional radiology and cardiovascular team, which can perform procedures to stop bleeding in targeted areas during a traumatic injury or restore blood flow to the brain in the case of a stroke. Each of them were employed at-will, meaning they were not under an obligation to stay at ThedaCare for a certain amount of time.
Outagamie County Circuit Court Judge Mark McGinnis granted ThedaCare's request and held an initial hearing Friday morning. The case will get a longer hearing at 10 a.m. Monday.
The employees will not be working anywhere on Monday, until the judge figures out what should be done. (There isn't news yet on today's hearing, where employees were expected to testify.) And the thing is, it's complicated on both sides. ThedaCare is arguing that if the seven members of the team leave for their new jobs before they are replaced, people could actually die. That really is a serious concern. Overall, ThedaCare is a more comprehensive hospital with a Level II Trauma Center and a Comprehensive Stroke Center with more specialists available around the clock, so patients that need more care are sent there rather than to Ascension, which is only a Level Three Trauma Center and Primary Stroke Center. If ThedaCare doesn't have that team, many patients will need to be transferred mid-treatment, and that's not great for them.
But ThedaCare also had a chance to pay their workers more and provide a counter offer. They didn't. They also had weeks to find replacements. They didn't. And yes, it's probably going to be hard for them to find people who are willing to work for whatever it is they were paying these people that was less than what Ascension is giving them, in a time when health care workers are quitting in droves anyway, but if they want to have a team of people to do this work, they're going to have to figure out how to pay them.
In other health care work news, we got a "feel good story" this weekend about how teenagers in Sackets Harbor, New York, have "saved" their town's volunteer ambulance by becoming EMTs and volunteering themselves.
In rural Sackets Harbor, N.Y., where COVID-19 affected the local volunteer ambulance service, local high school students took the required training and picked up the slack. https://cbsn.ws/33WMY0W\u00a0pic.twitter.com/YM6RHxsRnS— CBS Sunday Morning \ud83c\udf1e (@CBS Sunday Morning \ud83c\udf1e) 1642950087
These baby-faced first responders took over the town's Emergency Medical Services not long after COVID-19 hit, when all the older EMS volunteers either couldn't — or wouldn't — do the job anymore.
That exodus is part of a national trend. In rural America, 35% of ambulance services are all-volunteer. And 69% of those departments say they're struggling to find help.
Fortunately, in Sackets Harbor, desperation led to inspiration. In New York State you can become an EMT at 17, and you can start assisting when you're even younger. When a group of local high schoolers heard that, they decided to step up, took the required training and resuscitated the department.
There is so, so much that is wrong with this picture.
The reason many ambulance services in rural areas are staffed by volunteers is not because people are just so wonderful and want to provide that service out of the kindness of their hearts, it's because it's not profitable for private companies to run ambulances in those areas. And so now, we've got towns relying on unpaid child labor to get people to emergency rooms. That is where we are with this.
Picture it! An Alternate Universe America that actually makes sense, in which ambulances and paid EMT jobs are funded through taxes so that every place can have them. That could create jobs and make it so people don't have to go into debt because they had a medical emergency. Also, we could look at the number of health care workers and doctors we need to take care of our population and ensure that we are educating enough people to do those jobs by subsidizing their education. And then — then — we pay them with our tax dollars, so we don't run into situations where hospitals are in competition with one another for workers, because they are all paid fairly.
Alas, we can't do that, or anything else that logistically makes sense, because that would be communism. I get it! People are frightened of that, except when it comes to police departments for some reason. But if those people want to avoid what they apparently believe would be a nightmare scenario of socialized medicine, then they should probably get on the ball and start trying to figure out "free market" solutions to these problems that, ideally, do not involve the use of unpaid child labor or forcing people to stay at jobs that don't pay them enough.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse