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Letter from a casualty of the hospital's last administration

Letter to the Editor


This is a letter to the communities served by Coulee Medical Center in response to the letter by Greg Behrens (“Thoughts and concerns for the CMC board, and community” July 23, 2014).

You talk about all the things that the previous administration accomplished — about the Press-Ganney, income, and retention. These accomplishments happened way before Tom Jensen and Scott Graham; they started with a crew of people willing to sacrifice to build a new hospital. You talked about talking to employees, but we never once saw you in Radiology talking to my staff. You had the chance to tell your story, so here is a story from one of the employees who lost out because of your “greatest” administration.

My name is Pat Kiedrowski. Some of you know me, some of you don’t, but I was the supervisor of the Radiology Department from July 1999 until November 2012. I took over this department back in 1999 and the state of the imaging department was way out of date with ancient equipment and not much in the way of CT or MRI or radiologist coverage. So I was a little reluctant to take over, but I did with the plan of improving what we could accomplish.

When I took over it was me and one other technologist in the department, and after the first day he didn’t think he could work with me so he put in his two-week notice. I came back to talk to him and told him that after two weeks if he still wanted to leave he could. Well, after two weeks he stayed and we worked well together since then. It started out with the two of us. When you have two people covering an imaging department 24/7, that means you work your eight-hour shift, take call for 16 hours, then come back in and work an eight-hour shift no matter how many times you get called in — and we would each do a week at a time.

Between 1999 and 2012, we built a state-of-the-art imaging department. We added technologists to the department as we grew, but we always managed to do what we needed to do with the minimum of staff to keep expenses down, because the goal was to build a new hospital.

In order to build the new hospital, many of the people who were working in the old hospital had to make sacrifices, working short staffed, being called in to cover when someone was sick, maybe even having to work a double to cover. We all did that so that we could do something for this community, and it was okay because we were all part of this community so in the big picture we were giving back to ourselves.

The point is, we sacrificed to do something wonderful for our community, then we got the new administration and they started letting people go; that took a lot of the people who lived in this community out of our hospital and lost the trust of this community.

The community came out in force to remove the previous administration, and so many people came to the board meetings that it had to be moved to Coulee Dam City Hall. Now that the previous administration is gone, the number of citizens at the board meeting has shrunk back down to less than half. It seems that the community thinks that because the previous administration is gone the fight is over, but it is not; it has really just begun.

I was the supervisor of the radiology department for about 14 years. I am proud of what I accomplished for the hospital, the new technology and the many new exams we could now provide for our patients. I had a great staff and was just on the verge of having a fulltime ultrasound tech that was also able to do all the other imaging, as well. I worked very hard as well as the techs in my department. I know I had a target on my back for other reasons, one being that I would not just be a manager.

Under the old administration, I was told I needed to be a manager only. I needed to be available at all times to whoever would decide to have a meeting. I could not be just a manager, I had to be a working manager. I have to keep my license through AART and the state for one; for two, I was never staffed to have it any other way. I would not have been comfortable with that; I felt that I was part of my team and a team works together for the greater good. So I took call during the week as well as the weekends and holidays.

Department head meetings were getting pretty heated from what administration was asking from us, as well as from our employees. It turned out to be more and more stressful; the thought of losing your job was right at the top of everyone’s list. Our meetings were pretty much the same — make that money, and you will be rewarded. I had never received a bonus. If I had, I would have split it with my staff. The way I see it is, I did not earn it alone; my department worked together. And of course I said that, and it was frowned upon. I wanted to be a great leader with goals all the time, not just being there and collecting a paycheck. I helped where ever I was needed, even with the maintenance crew at times. I had been called in to the ER for intoxicated unruly patients when our hospital was staffed with more female nurses, and I went willingly and quickly. See, at that time we worked together; it took all the departments in the hospital to make it work at its best potential.

I am going to get a lot more personal now. The day I lost my job I was devastated. I was told my services were no long needed. When I asked why, I was told again that my services were no longer needed. If I just resigned the way I was told to I could keep some of my earned leave and they would not fight my unemployment. If I did not do it their way, they said I would get nothing. I never had a chance to even go over what happened, because I really believe I was not transforming into the type of manager that administration wanted. I needed to be a working supervisor. I know all the equipment and how to fix most things. I have never had the radiology department go down for a weekend. The crew never changed exams because they did not know how to do them. Patients came first; they did not have to wait hours. Now it’s to the point that most of our community goes elsewhere for their imaging. In all this time, now going on 17 months, I have not been able to get another job. The person in my life tells me it’s because I belong here. That is not going to happen.

I did have hope that it would, that I would get my job back. That it would be looked into and that my side of events would be important too. They should be. I should have had the chance to make what was wrong right. I should have been offered that. I put my heart in this hospital for a lot of years. I bought a home here, raised kids here; this was my life, too. Now I can’t pay my bills or take care of my family. We will be losing the house, and I have no idea where we will end up. I just want to get back to work and take care of my family. Do you all really think I am a bad person, too hard to get along with? Well, now I am branded a liability. That was a hard blow for me, and then to be told no one can to talk to me, either. I have spent 17 months looking for another job — over 378 about in eight different states.

Something that hits right in the heart is that I helped build this new radiology department. I think now it is time for this community to sacrifice one night a month to keep it open and go to the board meetings and let them know we are watching so that our hospital does not keep going down the road it started down for this community. It does hurt to say I am no longer part of it. There are always two sides of a story and I have never been able to tell mine or defend myself. I have had amazing co-workers over my time here.

I don’t know where the road goes for my family now, I just know that I always felt it was here and I would get back to work for this community. So I am saying goodbye and please keep supporting our hospital. There are so many great people wanting to take care of you and those you love. I say thank you to the ones who have wished me and my family well. Part of my heart will always be here.

Pat Kiedrowski

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Sherrill Castrodale writes:

No one is irreplaceable in terms of work, but it is a terrible loss to lose true creativity and community to gimmick.