Posted by: whatrosewrites | July 3, 2010

Re-branding, disposable health care

In recent years, there’s been plenty of buzz words added to labels such as “eco”, “green”, “organic” and “living off the grid”. Businesses and people wishing to appear earth-friendly, resisting an unnatural and overly “chemicalized” world. But what about how we are labeling people?

Andy Rooney (60 Minutes news commentator) presented a piece on re-branding products with same size packaging but with less product inside – I loved his coffee example. We are seeing similar things being done with many jobs. In ophthalmology, for example, certified ophthalmic assistants/technicians have been re-branded to include less educated and even only “those enrolled” in such studies. Drop the “certified” and almost anyone can be given this title, save the skill set and deserving pay that goes along with it. Sadly, it is the patients that suffer and perhaps the world-class ophthalmologist who needs to waste time verifying and even undoing the damage done by someone who, for instance, administers eye drops without first checking for narrow angles or doing a pupillary check (properly) which could, in fact, help diagnose life threatening conditions (such as brain tumours or aneurysms).

Disposable was the relief word for moms everywhere when I was growing up…from a family of seven with one bathroom, no dishwasher, and one station wagon (complete with fake wood trim and the rear-facing back seat – for the twins). Who had time to recycle? Or try washing dishes mid-summer in a non-air conditioned bungalow when you could simply toss the plates out? A new movement toward making things from scratch is being revived – and thank god. When someone makes a tree house (that doesn’t harm the tree) or kitchen utensils from drift wood, for instance, there is more respect and reverence shown to those things. We take care of them. It is no secret that some employers view their staff as throw aways too. Letting people “go” before they are entitled to benefits or adding to their responsibilities without adding to their pay (praise instead of raise) and given a fancy title maybe? Don’t feel bad, we’ve all fallen for some flattery.

One innovative person stands out in my mind, H.J. Heinz, founder of the company that bears his name. I saw a documentary on this man and his philosophy. In turn, he won the respect and loyalty of his staff during lean years that the Heinz company had to endure. Whenever one of his employees faced a personal hardship such as illness or death of a loved one, instead of judging and replacing this person, he showed compassion and understanding. No, it’s not wise, nor helpful to “save” people from everything, however, none of us are perfect…none. Compassion will always triumph over judgement. I honestly think that no one really wants to do a “bad job”, we all like to feel competent. I see now that inclusion of others is so crucial to brilliant ideas coming to fruition. Exclusion of others, now done by workplace bullying, unlawful firings, downsizing or even paying people less than agreed to upon hiring has become fairly commonplace. Wait a sec, don’t we have employer rating websites, Labour Boards, and Human Rights Commissions? Yeah, but some fear being “found out” reporting and few will support a co-worker facing unfair treatment for fear of losing their job too.

Remember when a man’s (or woman’s) handshake was as good as their word? Well, now their “word” needs to be in writing. Guess we really do need to hold people responsible for their actions (or inaction)…even the highly educated or billion dollar companies or corporations – BP and the US financial industry – just to name two. Wonder if we kept people around (instead of disposing of them), worked with them through their errors in the earliest stages, gave them opportunity to “safely” admit and rectify them…could we have averted some tragedies?

Update: “Near Miss” protocols have been in place in many industries, including construction and health care. A “near miss” is an unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness or damage but could do so. Perhaps more people would feel “safe” (without fearing a backlash or loss of their job) if more of these events could be reported anonymously and handled in a confidential manner. It takes guts to speak out when things don’t seem right – and we should applaud those who put pride aside to put safety (or doing what is right) first.

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