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Hospital Staff Members Taking a Verbal Beating

July 31, 2008 — Amidst the accusations and acrimony flying around the community this week in the wake of an incriminating audit of Schneider Regional Medical Center — and an equally incriminating newspaper report — little attention has been paid to some of the folks most affected by the reports: the employees.
The atmosphere in the Kimelman auditorium Thursday was tense. Employees seemed to be waiting for some reassurance that things would be okay as they listened to Chief Executive Officer Amos Carty's every word. Though the mood was solemn, Carty's remarks were occasionally greeted with bursts of applause
The somber mood in the packed auditorium noticeably lifted, however, when, midway through the conference, Carty introduced Delphine Olivacce, medical unit clinical care coordinator.
"I come to you this morning on behalf of the patient care staff here at the center," Olivacce said. "Let me make it clear that I speak on the behalf of the staff, not on behalf of senior leadership."
Staring straight ahead at newspaper reporters seated a few feet in front of her, Olivacce said, "The patient care staff at Schneider Regional Medical Center is deeply disturbed by the reports that have appeared in the V.I. Daily News this week."
She continued, "Nonetheless, as patient care providers, we must continue to do the jobs that we do so well. I am here to ensure you as a community that safe, effective and compassionate patient care is now, and has always been, our priority. As health-care providers, we take pride in the care we provide …. we have a patient care team that is second to none."
As the employees listened to Olivacce, they sat up a little straighter, and smiles began to replace frowns. She addressed her remarks to the community: "Our hearts are filled with joy as we assist you in your time of greatest need — when you are sick, when your family members are sick. We take pride in rejoicing with you, in crying with you, and in mourning with you."
She concluded: "The staff wants you to know that you are loved here and that you are protected here. You are safe. We ask that you continue to let us serve you, love you and care for you."
Later in the day, Olivacce discussed her purpose in speaking Thursday.
"Those of us who work here care," she said. "We love being here, and we love taking care of the community. When someone attacks our way of life, we have to assure people."
Olivacce moved to St. Thomas in 2001 as a visiting nurse.
"I've worked all over the country," she said, "but I've never been anywhere so special. I'm here to stay. Just this last weekend we transported four critically ill babies off the island. These are the kinds of things that are not focused on."
Hospital staff members have suffered verbal abuse as a result of the newspaper story, Olivacce said.
"Some people have yelled at us," she said. "Not the patients, but the visitors. It's very hard."
Peter Najawicz, SRMC chief financial officer, digressed from discussing money matters for a moment to concur with Olivacce.
"People have been using four-letter words to our employees," he said. He addressed two Daily News reporters seated before him: "If this is what a Pulitzer costs, it's very expensive. I hope it was worth it, because if it's not, I'm going to be walking across the street to talk to you."
The Daily News offices are located up the street from SRMC.
Employee representative Andy Phillip also spoke briefly.
"We remain committed and compassionate about the care of our patients," he said. "We will continue to make a difference every day by serving our patients with pride on every shift, each and every day. It takes all of us."
Staff members responded with a warm round of applause and a few more smiles.
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