Secretary Meneses visits Western State, Child Study and Treatment Center
Secretary Jilma Meneses visited Western State Hospital and the Child Study and Treatment Center on March 16 and 17 for the first time since she joined the Department of Social and Health Services in January.
Her inaugural visits included tours of patient wards and milieus, meetings with leadership, and an open-house-style staff meet-and-greet at WSH’s gym.
“We have such amazing people here,” Meneses told the crowd of staff members from CSTC and WSH. “As I’ve said to so many of you, yesterday or today, you are working with a very complex population defined as patients — very, very complex — and it takes very special people to work with our patients. Not just anybody can do your jobs … It takes an immense amount of emotional intelligence; it takes immense amount of compassion; it takes an immense amount of integrity; and it takes an immense amount of dignity; and that’s what you all carry in common.
“I said to some new hires at another facility today, you have a very hard job, there’s no question. This is not necessarily an easy or a fun job all of the time; it’s complex, it’s hard, but it is probably amongst the more rewarding things a human being can do,” she continued. “Our patients are often rejected by society given their history, but you have done the opposite. You do not judge them. Rather, you care for them and treat them with dignity and respect, which every human deserves.”
Meneses also spoke about the need to offer staff good infrastructure and the right tools to become more successful in their roles.
“Kevin and I, we’re going to work very hard to listen to you to see what we can do to help to give you many tools to get your jobs done … you absolutely need an electronic medical record system,” she said. She explained that it will take a few years to pick the right system and customize it; Meneses expects the Behavioral Health Administration to start implementing an electronic health record system in the very near future. Whatever system is implemented now will be the foundation of a more robust system later. This phased process will help build a culture around using the digital space instead of paper files.
In the meet-and-greet with staff, Meneses spoke with Peter Ibongia, WSH’s interim director of health information and privacy, who oversees medical records. Ibongia shared that establishing an EHR would be more efficient and would bolster morale, and offered that he’s excited to contribute to the effort. While the hospital has medical records stored from 1871, Meneses explained that a new EHR would likely only input records from current and future active patients.
Meneses also spoke to staff about the importance of offering employees platforms to provide solutions and feedback to leadership.
WSH leaders echoed the value of staff input as they spoke about workplace safety, and the overall decrease in assaults.
“Saying that the assaults are trending down is excellent, that’s a great thing, but we all know that one assault is one assault too many, and again that one assault is going to drive us to have those sleepless nights,” said Charles Southerland, chief executive officer of the Civil Center of Excellence. “As the secretary said, I always want to thank everybody for being on this journey, for coming to work each day at the hospital, for being there for the patients, and sometimes putting yourself in harmful situations. So we’re committed to doing all we can to lessen those harmful situations, and ultimately get to the point where we can have zero assaults; that’s always going to be the goal.”
Southerland and Dan Davis, the Civil Center’s deputy CEO, emphasized the Civil Center of Excellence safety committee and the hospital-wide safety committee are designed to allow staff to share their ideas for improvements. Davis encouraged staff to send emails to SafetyConcerns@dshs.wa.gov with feedback on how to improve safety.
“That piece in itself is a way for our employees to have a voice, to really let us know the challenges they’re having on the ward, and give us an opportunity to make it safer for everyone,” said Davis.
Meneses said that in addition to decreasing assaults and establishing an EHR, another goal she has for BHA is to acquire a modernized incident reporting system that works, that gives proper notifications and isn’t laborious.
“I would like to see more modernization across BHA in regards to technology and infrastructure so that people have the tools to do their job better, more efficiently and safer,” Meneses said.
The secretary left the staff with accolades for the work they do every day and the spirit in which they do it.
“You should not only be very, very proud of what you do, but you also should continue with that courage and that stamina and that tenacity you carry.”