Carney Hospital has partnered with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1199 United Healthcare Workers East to form a new joint labor-management initiative. The collaboration launched a campaign to encourage residents to start using the hospital’s services by knocking on doors across Dorchester this past Saturday.
Carney was purchased in 2010 by Steward Health Care System, a for-profit company that promised to invest millions of dollars in the hospital last January. Last February, they hired longtime Codman Square Health Center director Bill Walczak to serve as Carney’s president. Steward has also poured more than $10 million into new surgical suites in the hospital.
Walczak said that teaming Carney and SEIU was a natural fit. He was impressed with SEIU’s ability to reach people in the community and said their “renowned political canvassing” skills would be beneficial for marketing Carney as well.
“The way I think about it, Carney Hospital is a candidate and we have to convince people to vote for it. We have a good product and a staff that is very committed,” said Walczak.
About 60 people participated in the Saturday canvass, including SEIU employees, hospital management, a few doctors and Walczak. Senator Jack Hart and City Councilors Felix Arroyo and Frank Baker also participated.
Walczak said that a main goal of the canvassing effort was to inform residents of hospital improvements in hopes that spreading the word will increase the volume of patients.
Karl Odom, a cardio-pulmonary technologist who has been working at Carney for 34 years, has had a contract with SEIU for two years and was happy to support the hospital on Saturday by canvassing in Uphams Corner.
“It was great, I grew up in that area. It was nice walking through that area again, knocking on doors,” said Odom, adding that the canvass was a good opportunity to reacquaint people with the services Carney can provide.
As the only hospital in Dorchester, Odom pointed out the unique opportunity Carney has to provide a local service to community members.
“We can provide a more nurturing environment because we’re a smaller hospital. We know what the locals want. I think people are looking for an experience where they can sit down and talk with their doctor.”
Odom said that the new initiative is a powerful way to reach the community through employees.
“Carney asked the union to come in. They wanted input from employees. You’ve got 900 people here, those people are going to go out there and talk,” Odom said. “We’re in the neighborhood.”
Walczak agrees that management and staff working in tandem will be a crucial part of continuing to improve Carney.
“You can’t just have management initiatives. You have to have staff initiatives. People need to feel like they’re on the same team, or it’s just not going to work,” he said.
Going forward, Walczak hopes that the partnership formed will help residents continue to learn about Carney’s services and the opportunity they have to take advantage of good, local care.