Issue 17 - Special Edition - Using an Informed Approach to Ensure a Healthier Workforce

Issue 17 - Special Edition - Using an Informed Approach to Ensure a Healthier Workforce

Using an Informed Approach to Ensure a Healthier Workforce

Swedish employees and their dependents receive some of the most generous healthcare benefits in the region. For many years, Swedish has paid close to 100% of all employees’ healthcare benefits. As a healthcare provider we value the health and well being of our workforce; however, as healthcare utilization and costs continue to rise, we must take a hard look at how we can control our own medical plan.

At a recent bargaining session, Swedish brought in Dr. Randy Axlerod, a national expert on medical plans, to share the findings of his research that looked at how Swedish could begin to better utilize our healthcare resources. The findings were shocking. We wanted to give all Swedish employees the opportunity to see Dr. Axelrod present his research findings with Dr. Jay Fathi. We are posting short videos of some of Dr; Axelrod’s findings on the Negotiation News website and you can click here to watch online.

Puget Sound Business Journal reports on the Current Economic Crisis Facing Seattle area Hospitals

On Friday, July 29, the Puget Sound Business Journal published a comprehensive look at the financial crisis Swedish and other Puget Sound regional hospitals are experiencing. The article discussed some of the issues we’ve raised in the previous Negotiation News posts such as the impact of growing Medicare enrollees, combined with fewer private insurance enrollees, decreasing state support, increasing treatment of uninsured patients as well as the increasing costs to provide healthcare to employees and their dependents. The article includes quotes from Swedish management and union leadership; both acknowledging that employee benefit costs are “unsustainable” and need to be addressed in the new contract.

If you have not had a chance to read this article, we’ve included a link for you here: click here to see the PDF.

Questions or Comments?

As always, we appreciate hearing from you. Please feel free to submit questions or feedback to or here at

Swedish Bargaining Team
@Frustrated Employee - Thank you for your comment. Dr. Axlerod’s discussion was recorded on four separate video clips. The first clip was originally posted by itself. The remaining clips are now available for viewing at:

As for cuts absorbed by upper management, this was one of the earliest areas of our operation that we examined when it became clear that we would need to make serious adjustments in our financial structure.

Since 2009, Swedish has reduced expenses more than $30 million through cuts in our management departments.

While these savings have
been significant, they are unfortunately not enough to get us to where we need to be -- $200 million over three years.

Thank you again for your comments. We hope you continue to dialogue with us here so that we can address any future concerns or questions you may have.
9/22/2011 11:04:53 AM
Swedish Bargaining Team
@Unknown -Thank you for your post. The source for funds used to build these facilities are different, and separate, from the funds used to pay staff and day-to-day operations.

To pay for Issaquah, Swedish took out $250 million in loans through a bond sale, using proceeds from our bond sale to finance the construction. None of the money to build Issaquah came from our operating fund, the money we use for day-to-day operations, including employee wages and benefits.

Healthcare is changing and the way people access care is changing. As patients seek care closer to their homes and as density increases in the suburbs around Seattle, it is critical that Swedish adopts a growth strategy that matches these trends. Opening Issaquah will help Swedish provide better patient care while creating new jobs and opportunities for current and future healthcare workers.

In the meanwhile, Swedish has already made aggressive moves to reduce costs. We’ve already reduced expenses more than $30 million through cuts in our management departments.

Furthermore, $60 million in cost savings have been identified through a variety of additional efficiency programs.

As for Dr. Axelrod’s presentation, we recorded it in four separate video clips. The clips are available at the following link:

Again, thank you for your comments and the opportunity to address your concerns.
9/22/2011 11:03:46 AM
Swedish Bargaining Team
@Jeanette - Thank you for your post.

Dr. Axelrod’s presentation was shot in four separate clips. Initially we posted the first of these clips, with the intention of posting the remaining clips in a staggered fashion.

You can access these clips at the following link:

Thank you again for your comments.
9/22/2011 11:02:55 AM
Swedish Bargaining Team
@Who Cares - The hard truth is that Swedish must reduce expenses by $200 million over the next three years.

Swedish’s executive team began cost reduction efforts a few years back. Since 2009, Swedish has already reduced expenses more than $30M through cuts in our management departments. Swedish’s executive team began cost reduction efforts a few years back. In 2009, 201 non-contractual positions were laid off, these reductions included a 50% reduction in vice president positions, 25% reduction in directors, 11% reduction in managers and 8.5% reduction in other non-contractual positions. Management and non-contractual employees have had salary freezes in 2009 and 2011 (except for a small number of positions that received a market adjustment) and freezing the pension plan while providing a company contribution to the 401(k) plan for all non-contractual employees. Also, bonuses were not paid for 2008, 2010, and are unlikely for 2011.
In addition, major reductions in supply spending have contributed to substantial cost savings and additional projected reductions along these lines are currently in process.

We pride ourselves on hiring the best of the best and we have a compensation plan that reflects that policy.

It is our primary goal to reach a solution that will allow all parties to find a compromise we can live with so that together we can maintain the legacy of Swedish. We are working diligently with employees and with SEIU to achieve that goal.

Thank you again for your comments and for your commitment to Swedish.
9/22/2011 11:02:20 AM
surina crumble

My name is Surina Crumble I currently work at the First Hill campus Emergency Department .

I am under Patient Registration. I'm a single mother of 4 and am also raising 1 grand child. My current position is a .75 . I am thankful and proud to be apart of the Swedish family.

However I can not afford the Health care cost here at Swedish for my family as it stands and just the thought of Swedish raising what I already struggle to pay, well it worries me. I cant afford it !

My children receive state Provider One insurance "Medicaid" I do understand the current state of the economy and I do understand that as a result we all have to give more. But I don't have anymore to give. All families do not fall in the same bracket, in real life ! I work very hard here but its not enough, currently I am looking for a second job to try and keep things a float. I'm only 1 person living real life. This isn't business for me this is personal this is about my family. I know that I am not the only single parent working here at Swedish that is struggling. I don't want to sound ungrateful because I am very grateful to be a part of such a large organization. But raising the cost only pushes me back future cutting the benefits takes away from my family even more. Freezing our wages when the world cost is steady rising is insane to me. I cant find the rite in that ?

I feel helpless. I have to keep pressing forward I have kids at home that depend on me. I have made all the cut backs that I can in my home. There is nothing extra to give.

So it pains me to know that Swedish will increase my portion and freeze my wages at a time in History when everything is rising. I am one step away from welfare and food stamps.

I ask that you consider WE the people when YOU the organization are making your decisions for our lives.

thank you for your time

surina Crumble

First Hill ED
8/25/2011 8:38:50 AM
First Hill RN
There is no indication that Swedish Management is willing to compromise based on these communications and for the most part it has been very discouraging reading the negotiation blog and getting feedback from colleagues. I believe that the employees are willing to compromise but not 'give up the farm' as you are requesting. I wonder if these open communications are fueling the fire of discontent. Asking employees to do their 'fair share' feels a little like our government telling taxpayers that they will cut taxes and give more loopholes to the rich who can better afford to make their 'fair share' contribution. Everyone would agree that we are now facing difficult times, many employees are struggling to be the fulltime provider with a spouse that has been laid off so making such a huge shift in our compensations could not come at a worse time. Just as Swedish has to make it payments, so do employees have mortgages to pay. Please come to the table and work out a reasonable agreement for the sake of your reputation and fairness.
8/21/2011 8:57:01 AM
Frustrated Employee
It would have been nice if Swedish let there employees see Dr. Axlerod's full presentation instead of being edited. How are we supposed to beleive anything that you are telling the employees when things are being edited and left out. Has upper management taken a pay cut? How much $ was spent on Dr. Axelrod telling us how everything is our fault? Is management still getting their bonuses and parking perks? And you wonder why your employees are angry and don't trust anything upper management says anymore.
8/20/2011 11:12:11 AM
Carol Goodwin
The video clip that accompanies this negotiation news is very disturbing on two levels.

First, that whoever chose to include it edited it so abruptly. It comes across as one of those horrible politiical advertisements (which in some ways I suppose it is) where a sound bite is taken out of context to make whatever was said sound worse than it was.

Second, that we as employees are left labeled as "the worst" with no idea of what we are the worst at and therefore with no opportunity to learn and change behavior.
8/18/2011 11:56:41 AM
Sally O'Neill
Dr Axelrod certainly has the background in managing healthcare costs but not any occupational health knowlege. At no time did he mention what are particular risks/injuries for healthcare workers such as back injuries, assaults, bladder infections, emotional stress, and assaults. He also was unfamiliar with recent research linking massage and chiropractic care to decreased pain and increased earlier mobility compared to surgery and conventional medical care. Yes, we do all need to be current on preventive screening, have primary care providers, etc but we do not need doom and gloom lectures on how unhealthy, irresponsible, and old we are. What we do need is true respectful collaboration. We have been pushing Swedish to enter into cost saving wellness work for years such as Group Health and King County have. Enough spending on outside consultants instead of listenning to what employees think. Enough wasting our time in fake collaboration only to spring an outside consultant in at the last minute to lambast us with cute stories and disrespectful lectures. we could have been done with negotiations in June if Swedish would stop with the "new Normal, Fair Share." We know that healthcare costs are a problem under our current system. We also know that Swedish prefers to spend money on high paid executives and new fancy facilities instead of its hardworking staff.
8/17/2011 5:38:07 PM
Who cares?
To Swedish Corporate:

If SEIU members give up their retirement pension, just as non-contractural employees were forced to do, would Swedish Corporate be happy?

If Swedish employees gave up all extras; celebrations, etc. would Swedish Corporate give us a living wage with at least cost of living raises?

If Swedish employees agreed to pay a little extra for health benefits for their family; would Swedish Corporate agree to continue to pay for Health Benefits for at least employees?

Why doesn't Swedish Corporate just spell it out honestly and tell employees what they ARE willing to do for the loyal employees that have worked hard to make Swedish what it is?

Please just state what you want and let's all stop pretending that employees really have any say in decisions at Swedish.
8/17/2011 3:22:45 PM
Nicola Robinson
Dear Sir/Madam,

Until health care in the US is taken out of the hands of corporations, whose primary goal is to feed profits to stockholders, costs will continue to rise.

Please would you let us know what influence Swedish has in this wider arena, and is this an area of focus and activity for Swedish?

Thank you,

8/17/2011 2:22:26 PM
Swedish knowing all this and still built a state of the art facility in
Issaquah and now cry "poor mouth".

Oh that's right, take away everthing from the employees to help pay for it while upper management still get their bonuses and high wages.
Why don't they take a paycut to help out.?

How much did it cost for Dr. Axlerod's counsult to come in to hurl out insults the employees making them feel useless and not appriciated.?

How much was that? I'm sure the money paid to him could of gone to something useful besides his insults and pie charts and stuffy attitude.
Maybe could of given the employees back their $50 Christmas gift card?

We all agree we need to help reduce the costs of healthcare, and surely can come to some agreement without once again taking everything away from the employees.
Please..........we no longer get our Christmas bonus, we get nothing and management still wants us to give in to a health plan that will force alot of the work-force to leave and go elsewhere because they will be working just to be able to have healthcare.

Thus having a huge population of workers leaving to go elsewhere.

If Valley Medical can't treat their employees with dignity and respect and fairness, why can't Swedish?

Thus having a huge population of workers leaving to go elsewhere.

If Valley Medical can treat their employees with fairness, why can't Swedish, it's really not that hard.
8/17/2011 2:17:58 PM
Jeanette Elkins
It would be nice to hear all of Dr Axlerod's presentation. The edited version does not give us the whole picture, and the understanding of the situation.
Out of respect for your employees we need to be informed of the whole situation, not bits and pieces.
8/17/2011 12:23:27 PM
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