An account of how a large Catholic medical center has lost its way. Go to to see recent updates.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Keith Steffen and the Apostolic Christian Community

Keith And The Apostolic Christian Community

The only reason I bring up this topic is because Keith Steffen talked about them so much in his office with me, he seemed to be fixated on the Apostolic Christian community in the area. Keith is an Apostolic Christian as well.

During one of my initial “conversations” with Keith, he smiled, looked down, and told me that the “Apostolic Christians in the area have a problem with you”. He never told me what this meant but would add that the “other side of you is going to come it won’t be good”. He never explained this either. I asked him what he meant by these statements and Keith would just smile, shake his head, shift his feet, and look down at the floor in his office.

I have known many Apostolic Christian (AC )nurses around the OSF medical center for 25 years. Many are close friends. I ate dinner with them in their homes, took care of their family members, and they took care of my family as well with any needs we had. They universally showed empathy for their patients. The closeness of their families and the sincerity of their church and community is remarkable—something that all faiths should try and achieve. When a Haitian child died in the Peoria area, the Roanoke Funeral Home conducted the services, the Roanoke AC church was filled with white, middle class church goers, the Haitian child lay in a casket that was nicer than her home in Haiti, and her Haitian mom and sister were flown to the States to be with her during her last days. The dead child's mom and sister sat in the first pew as the AC community supported them with tears in their eyes. One had to be there to see the best side of the U.S. showing its support for their Haitian neighbors who have nothing but God in their corner.

Anne is a great friend of mine and an AC nurse at OSF. She travelled to Haiti many times and worked in our clinics there. Haitian Hearts and its children could not have survived without her. She took care of kids with heart problems in Haiti, arranged their travel, found host families in the Peoria area, took care of kids in her home, helped with the kids in the hospital, took care of them postoperatively, and took them back to Haiti to their parents. She helped raise funds ($1.1 million) for Haitian Hearts that all went to Childrens Hospital of Illinois. She gave talks all over the area for Haitian Hearts and Children’s Hospital. Her brother adopted a baby from Haiti who had heart surgery. Her entire family was involved with Haitian kids. Anne never complained about her incredible work load.

Through Anne and the host families from her church, I met many Apostolic Christian families who hosted Haitian children in their homes. The kids were part of their families and in their Christmas pictures. These families spent many agonizing days in the OSF-ICU with these kids after surgery. They took the kids on vacation with them when they were better. They travelled back to Haiti with me and gave the kids back to their biologic Haitian moms and saw the shacks and slums where these kids lived. They built new homes for the families and sent the Haitian kids to school. Great things happened with these relationships that Steffen was trying to destroy. Why Steffen would say that the “Haitian kids make me want to puke” remains problematic for these host families and for all of us involved in the care of these kids.

Steffen talked to members of the AC community about me at his church in Washington prior to firing me. (He denied this to my brother.) I took the liberty of talking to Steffen’s elder (Ron Messner) about the problem. I requested a meeting with the elder, Keith, and another AC member of the community who had travelled to Haiti with me many times. I thought that OSF’s administrator needed a good talking to by his elder. The elder agreed but when I was leaving his office, he told me he would “never see me again”. I e-mailed Steffen to tell him the good news of a meeting that would foster open and honest communication, a mission statement at OSF that Steffen constantly referred to. Steffen sent my request to OSF attorney, Doug Marshall, who stated that Steffen would not be part of this meeting. Just like the elder predicted. I don’t blame OSF for not wanting him to be there. He might talk again. (Neither the Apostolic Christian Church nor the Roman Catholic Church would be able to control the powerful leaders at OSF.)

Prior to Steffen firing me, he met with a couple of nurses in the medical center who happened to be AC. He said very bad things about me and threatened to sue one of the nurses who was supporting me. From my understanding, ACs don’t sue. What was Steffen thinking? Did he not agree with this religious principle of the AC church? Was he trying very hard to intimidate this nurse who had would do more real work for the Sister’s mission in one day than Steffen every did? Another nurse who is not AC told me that Steffen referred to the nursing staff at OSF as “widgets”. She did not view this as complimentary. And when the some of the nursing staff were considering unionizing a couple of years ago, Steffen came out with a diatribe about the nurses threatening them not to unionize at OSF. (A friend of mine’s wife was a nurse at OSF and was asked my management nurses if she was going to sign the petition to unionize…maybe a little intimidation and fear were being used…) Steffen told me in his office that if any nurse wanted to leave OSF, this was fine with him. But at the same time, OSF was raiding the Phillipines for foreign nurses to try and help fill the nursing shortage that plagues OSF as it does other medical centers in the United States. Referring to OSF nurses as “widgets” seems quite inappropriate with or without a nursing shortage.

I agree with Steffen’s suggestion that much of the AC community did have a problem with an OSF employee. However, that employee wasn’t me.

June 3, 2006

The nurses in the OSF ER were very discontent with how things were going in 2001. Employee satisfaction in the ER was poor. I knew how Keith Steffen treated a nurse, spoke of nurses, told me that it was fine with him if nurses left OSF, and strongly discouraged a nursing union at OSF, so it did not surprise me to learn that OSF was traveling to the Philippines to recruit nurses. As doctors and most administrators know, nurses make or break a hospital.

The New York Times ran an article on May 24, 2006 “U.S. Plan to Lure Nurses May Hurt Poor Nations”. The article stated:

“Public health experts in poor countries, told abut the proposal in recent days (the proposal to allow foreign nurses to immigrate easily to the United States), reacted with dismay and outrage, coupled with doubts that their nurses would resist the magnetic pull of the United States, which sits at the pinnacle of the global labor market for nurses...

Removing the immigration cap, they said, would particularly hit the Philippines, which sends more nurses to the United States than any other county, at least several thousand a year. Health care has deteriorated there in recent years as tens of thousands of nurses have moved abroad.

“The Filipino people will suffer because the U.S. will get all our trained nurses,” said George Cordero, president of the Philippine Nurse Association. “But what can we do?”

Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan, a medical professor at the University of the Philippines stated, “...the flight of (Filipino) nurses had a corrosive effect on health care. Most Filipinos died without medical attention in 2003, just as they had three decades earlier. Tan went on to say, “I plead for justice. There has to be give and take, not just take, take, take, by the United States.”

As stated in the article, providing appropriations for domestic nursing programs would be morally much more acceptable than bleeding the nursing work force in the developing world.

OSF, are you listening? Joe Piccione and Dr. McShane, where are you? This seems like a topic that Bishop Jenky should involve himself in quickly to help protect the people of the Philippines from the tactics of OSF in Peoria.
June 14, 2006

Poaching Nurses

The Lancet medical journal June 3, 2006 contains an article “Poaching Nurses from the Developing World”.

The article gives grim statistics. The American Hospital Association reports that here are 118,000 current vacancies of qualified nurses in the U.S. Nursing schools in the U.S. do not have sufficient staff and 32,000 students were refused entry into Baccalaureate level nursing programs in 2005.

Developed countries have long looked upon the developing world as a nearly limitless source of willing labor to fill the nursing shortage. 50,000 nurses have immigrated to the US in the last decade. Most of the countries from which these nurses come are facing extremely serious public-health problems, including epidemics of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. These are the same problems we see in Haiti everyday. Haiti and the rest of the developing world cannot afford to lose these nurses who frequently manage an entire ward of a hospital when there is no doctor available.

The Lancet reports, “Only 10% of the global burden of disease is concentrated in the Americas, but 37% of all health professionals work there”. A UN report reinforces that this brain drain of health workers is effectively subsiding care in the rich world. Clearly, further migration of workers will be disastrous for developing countries.

OSF-SFMC in Peoria and other large medical centers in the U.S. that attempt to lure nurses from their dirt-poor home countries should realize what they are doing. Diana Mason, editor of the American Journal of Nursing, said the main problem here is the “primary moral issue of draining these countries of their much-needed nursing resources and further undermine their healthcare infrastructure and the health of their people (and thus of their economies).” Mason states that a recent report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research suggests that the nursing shortage continues as a result of collusion among hospital administrators to keep wages down and of longstanding gender-based wage discrimination. Can you believe it?

According to Lancet, the U.S. Congress should be creating ways to fund and strengthen the nursing infrastructure in the US, thereby developing a local workforce. Nursing salaries could rise and the poaching of nurses from the developing world would no longer be necessary. And most importantly, patients in the Philippines, Africa, and Haiti wouldn’t lie in their hospital beds without care.


Anonymous said...

do you realize what a stroke of genius it really was to appt a protestant as adminastrator? WAKE UP!!!!!he can do all the dirty work those wiley little nuns dont have too at the same time save face with the catholic crowd. the nuns and bishops and fathers etc etc are not to be viewed as helpless or to be pitied as victims of a corrupt adminastration they all work hand in hand they all may have different MO's but their goals are the same

TEEd off said...

greed is cursing the sick in the hospita to keep wishing and praying to get ALL the sick of Peoria in one overcrowdwd hospital is the very epitome of greed i am totally apalled you are a disgrace to peoria

Anonymous said...

What is really sad is that OSF/Peoria isn't even crowded. There are many empty beds yet they keep building because of "the need". They then keep their prices way high to pay for the excessive building all the while proclaiming "non-profit status".

Anonymous said...

maybe they can turn it all into a theme park at this rate to "keep building"regardless of need sounds like a loophole to keep the "non-profit status"

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