Monthly news and insights by Dr. Tommy Ibrahim, president and CEO of Bassett Healthcare Network
I am honored to have the opportunity to reach you through “The Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta.” Each month I will keep you up to date on emerging public health information, share the latest news from Bassett Healthcare Network, talk about health trends in the news, address your questions and concerns, and discuss ways you and your family can stay healthy.
At Bassett, we are dedicated to improving the health of our patients and wellbeing of our communities. With flu season right around the corner, we want to make sure you and your family are protected. Being vaccinated against the flu not only protects you, it also protects people around you who are more vulnerable to flu, such as people 65 and older, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions or lowered immunity, and young children. The flu can also cause certain health conditions—like diabetes, asthma, heart, and lung disease—to become worse. So, protect yourself and those around you. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu vaccine each year.
As I frequently hear from our patients (many of whom are family, friends, and neighbors) it’s often difficult to schedule an appointment with Bassett. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear from a patient or family member about their challenging experience accessing care, and a recent editorial published by one of our community members in this newspaper really hit home.
Long hold times, dropped calls, unreliable customer service, limited appointment availability, and other access issues have created unsatisfactory experiences for a long time. More than 30 percent of Bassett’s inbound calls are abandoned by our patients. And in some areas of our health system, it can take months to see a practitioner. We are failing our patients and hurting our organization and we cannot allow this to continue. Our ability to grow and advance our mission hinges on creating a seamless and accessible patient experience.
After 2 years going silent to regroup their organizational strategies, under new CEO Tommy Ibrahim, and the Bassett Healthcare —“Your call is very important to us please stay on the line your call…”—Network is emerging with a legacy driven ad campaign.
This new campaign—“This call is very important to us please stay on the…”—will highlight the accomplishments of its founder Dr. Mary Imogene Bassett, one ofthe first female medical directors in—“Your call is very important to us please stay…”—the United States. It is a wonderful opportunity to share the history of our beloved MIB hospital. We ,who spend much time at MIB have not been aware of how—“This call is very important to us please…”—important and ground breaking Dr. Bassett was.
[Editor’s note: We invited Dr. Tommy Ibrahim, President and Chief Executive Officer of Bassett Healthcare Network, to reflect on his first year at the helm of our regional healthcare facilities. He provided to The Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta the following as a first-person, open letter to the communities the network serves.]
Dear Friends, Neighbors and Colleagues,
By many measures, 2021 was challenging and transformative for our community and Bassett Healthcare Network. When I began my tenure as President and CEO of Bassett, we were in the early stages of a pandemic that we hoped would last weeks or months, but became the largest global pandemic in a century. This crisis has been daunting and has tested our resolve in ways we could not have imagined. Through it all, our caregivers and practitioners did what they do best — cared selflessly for our patients and community.
Bassett Healthcare Network last week awarded ‘gratitude’ bonuses to its full complement of some 5,000 full- and part-time employees, made possible in large part through a donation from the Scriven Foundation.
Speaking with The Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta, Bassett Healthcare Network President and CEO Dr. Tommy Ibrahim credited the entire staff for its hard work throughout another year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Of course it’s been another tumultuous year,” he said. “Bassett Healthcare and every person we serve was carried through it on the shoulders of our caregivers and practitioners.”
Just one day after the vaccination mandate deadline, Bassett Healthcare was forced to cut services in certain areas because of a loss of staff members, Tuesday, Sept. 28.
Bassett announced the changes Tuesday, calling it a need to “redeploy staff temporarily” because of shortages.
Services affected include outpatient laboratory draws, which are now by appointment only. Cooperstown Convenient Care has been forced to close and wait times for phone calls will take longer than usual, according to a media release from Bassett Healthcare.
Healthcare groups in Otsego County are dealing with the state’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers and the need to keep their facilities staffed.
Bassett Healthcare Network, one of the largest employers in the area, is determined to vaccinate its entire workforce in spite of backlash and the potential loss of employees.
Bassett has made some progress on the vaccine front. According to an internal email penned by Bassett Healthcare CEO Dr. Tommy Ibrahim, vaccinations of its employees are at 90%. About two weeks ago, the vaccination rate was only 75%, according to Bassett officials.
COOPERSTOWN — In response to the state government mandating vaccinations for all healthcare workers, Bassett Healthcare has given its employees a deadline of Monday, Sept. 27, in order to have the first dose of the vaccine.
The mandate does not offer room for religious exemption but it does allow medical exemptions.
An internal email, penned by Dr. Tommy Ibrahim, CEO of Bassett Healthcare, said if employees are not vaccinated by Sept. 27, “you will no longer meet the regulatory requirements to be employed by Bassett Healthcare Network.”
INDEPENDENCE DAY PARADE – 1 p.m. The parade will line up at Noon at Foothills and proceed down Main Street to Neahwa Park for remarks and festivities. All essential workers are invited to participate and will have a chance to win door prizes from local businesses when they register. Bassett CEO Tommy Ibrahim will be serving as Grand Marshall. Main Street, Oneonta. Visit www.facebook.com/FNOneonta/
INDEPENDENCE DAY FESTIVAL – 2 – 11 p.m. After the Parade enjoy food, entertainment on the main stage, support local artisans, and much more at the festival. Mayor Gary Herzig and mayoral candidates will be presenting remarks to honor our essential workers. Neahwa Park, Oneonta. Visit www.facebook.com/FNOneonta/
INDEPENDENCE DAY FIREWORKS – 9:30 p.m. Five Star Subaru will be presenting the fireworks display, dedicated to Essential Workers, which will be ‘twice as intense’ as years past. Neahwa Park, Oneonta. Visit www.facebook.com/FNOneonta/
This past weekend Bassett performed an amazing feat of vaccinating a large group of people, more than 1,100 over two days. The confirmation of vaccine availability only came though on Wednesday, March 3, leaving but two full days to prepare. Nevertheless, I visited on Sunday and it had the appearance of a military operation (which in a sense it was).
The Bassett community, from Dr. Tommy Ibrahim on down should be proud, as should the staff of the Clark Sports Center, which hosted the event.
I want to especially commend the Bassett Director of Network Pharmacy, Kelly Rudd, Pharm.D., who was in command of the clinic from planning through implementation.
She worked from the list of patients from the state, a list of patients from Bassett’s own scheduling system, and an ad hoc group of volunteers who worked to contact and track down people qualified to be vaccinated, but for whom the computer-driven scheduling system was difficult or even impossible to use.
Also, many thanks are due to the Bassett staff who took the time to make hundreds of calls to help schedule seniors 65+.
There are many reports of computer-savvy individuals signing up friends, family members, and neighbors for vaccine appointments. To see this community spirit and kindness is a great thing.
The clinic was also able to smoothly access the waiting list to make sure no dose went unused. The volunteer group – which went out and identified about 175 people who had difficulty finding appointments on their own – included church members, other faith-based organizations, philanthropic NGOs (non-government organizations) including the Community Foundation of Otsego County, and additional individuals.
Many had been working on an individual basis, but recognized the synergy of working together.
Someone was remarking the other day that, over almost four decades, Otsego County had two key players that could be called upon in any crisis.
One, Bill Streck, Bassett Healthcare Network president/CEO since 1984, who spent years developing contacts in Albany. A Democrat, he was a go-to guy around here, someone who could call the Governor’s Office and expect an answer.
Two, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, who served in Albany from 1986 until this past Dec. 31, rising to leadership and maintaining it until the Senate shifted to the Democrats. Even then, he – like Streck – knew where the levers of power were and how to push them.
In the past year Streck, 74, and Seward, 69, both retired. In tackling the largest crisis in a century, which arguably the COVID-19 pandemic is, their departures left a void.
Anticipating 36-year state Sen. Jim Seward’s retirement, Bassett President/CEO Tommy Ibrahim “asked me to join his team” when the two met for the first time last fall, the senator said.
Conversations continued, and Friday, Feb. 12, Ibrahim made it official: Seward has joined the hospital network as a “strategic affairs liaison,” offering advice on a part-time basis on how it can interact with Albany to obtain the best outcomes.
In an interview, Ibrahim reported that Carolyn Lewis, former county economic development director, has been promoted from a Friends of Bassett role to director of public & legislative affairs, leading the hospital’s lobbying effort, and Seward’s expertise will be available to her.
“As a senator,” Ibrahim said, Seward “was a strong advocate of programs that support the health and well-being of the people in our region. (This) is a natural extension of Jim’s life and career.”
For his part, Seward pointed out that state Ethics Law prohibits state legislators from lobbying their former colleagues for two years after leaving office; but he can approach his contacts in the Executive Branch, which includes the state Department of Health and other agency systems that Bassett depends on.
And he knows who makes what decisions.
“I was very impressed with Tommy,” said Seward. “Since coming here, he’s put together a new management team. They’ve been developing a vision and a plan going forward. I look forward to doing whatever I can to assist the Bassett leadership.”’
Seward, who represented Otsego County in Albany for 36 years before retiring Dec. 31, said, “I’m ready to tackle new things. But I’m also glad to do this on a part-time basis. I do want to smell the roses a bit, too.”
COOPERSTOWN – Retired state senator Jim Seward, R-Milford, has agreed to join Bassett Healthcare Network in an advisory capacity as a strategic affairs liaison, Network President/CEO Tommy Ibrahim announced this morning.
“The former senator has been a public servant of our area for decades and has an intimate knowledge of the communities served by Bassett,” Ibrahim said in an email to the Network community.