Doctors Council & NYC Health + Hospitals Launch Historic Partnership to Improve Patient Experience & Quality of Care

The leadership of Doctors Council SEIU and NYC Health + Hospitals jointly launched an historic and innovative partnership to improve the patient experience and quality of care in our public hospital system. On Friday, November 6, 2015 more than 100 leaders from the front-lines of care from both the Union and the management were present for the first meeting of the Collaboration Council.

The Council was co-chaired by Dr. Aycan Turkmen, M.D., 2nd Vice-President of Doctors Council SEIU and Dr. Ross Wilson, M.D., CMO. Other members of the Council who attended include the Chief Medical Officers and Executive Directors from all NYC Health + Hospitals facilities, as well as NYC Health + Hospitals Deputy CMO, Dr. Machelle Allen, NYC Health + Hospitals COO, Antonio Martin, NYC Health + Hospitals CFO, Marlene Zurack, and NYC Health + Hospitals SVP and General Counsel, Sal Russo.

Opening the meeting, Dr. Frank Proscia, President of Doctors Council SEIU expressed the joint mission of the Collaboration Council which calls for “a new day in developing a fully collaborative and integrated administrative and clinical workforce with mutual respect and shared decision making that definitively improves patient outcomes, experience and the fiscal solvency of HHC.”

The Collaboration Council was established through collective bargaining between Doctors Council and HHC.  Doctors Council presented a White Paper to HHC in the Spring of 2014:  “Putting Patients First Through Doctor, Patient and Community Engagement: A Call To Action from Doctors Council SEIU to the Mayor and the Leadership of HHC.” Through bargaining in 2014-2015, both the doctors’ union and HHC management recognized that the growing challenges of providing quality care with the limited resources of a public hospital system can only be met by working together and working differently.

Dr. Wilson was candid in his presentation, “The current communication mechanisms connecting front line physicians to management decisions, and vice versa, need improvement…..” Dr. Wilson called for a team approach and new model of physician engagement with the goal that “By 2020 every patient and family will experience coordinated and safe care that exceed their expectations.”


On November 4-6, 2015 participants in the Collaboration Council attended an education session with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), a world-leading innovator in health care improvement.  This session set the groundwork for the first meeting of the Collaboration Council and beyond.  Throughout the 3-day training, front-line doctors and management broke down traditional labor-management barriers to learn a new science of quality improvement and a collaborative approach to problem-solving. Titles were put to the side to focus on ideas, tools, teamwork and sustainable improvement. There was a palpable sense of energy and excitement in the room as front line doctors and administrators came together with the top leadership of NYC Health + Hospitals and Doctors Council SEIU.


Both doctors and management left energized and empowered to achieve success in this challenging work. Dr. Caralee Caplan-Shaw, Director of Pulmonology at Bellevue Hospital commented “I am coming away from these 3 days inspired and armed with practical tools I can take back to Bellevue to teach to others, energize our teams, harness talents, and test new ways to improve care for the people and communities we serve.”

The participants were further inspired by the keynote address on the evening of November 4th delivered by special guest, Dr. Ben Chu, MD, MPH, MACP, Executive Vice President, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and former President of HHC.  Dr. Chu is also past chair of the American Hospital Association Board of Trustees. Dr. Chu shared how Kaiser Permanente has successfully met the challenges of the changes in health care. The successful transformation of Kaiser Permanente was a moving and motivational example for the NYC Health + Hospitals system.

NYC Health + Hospitals doctors at the event commented on the significant additional challenge that public health systems face in providing care to a vastly higher percentage of uninsured and Medicaid insured patients and expressed strong pride in their mission-driven work to care for underserved populations.

As both parties laid out their vision plan, what became clear was the missions and goals are aligned. John August, Director, Healthcare Labor Relations, Cornell University-ILR, Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution provided a neutral perspective on the unprecedented change in healthcare that has created the need for a new collaborative approach to improving population health and fiscal solvency of the public health system.

On behalf of NYC Health + Hospitals, Dr. Wilson shared recent patient experience and physician engagement data. The data depicted the stark challenges ahead but the will and commitment in the room inspired confidence in the ability to succeed. Dr. Wilson closed with the reminder that “The work we do is essential for millions of New Yorkers. If we don’t do it, no one will.”

The open discussion following the presentations reflected the necessity of a collaborative approach to how we define and implement change on the ground. Doctors raised issues on the difficulty of working with limited resources and the need for safe and open lines of communication with management. This first meeting of the Collaboration Council set the stage for building relationships, trust and finding common ground in a shared mission.

Dr. Steven Hahn, Doctors Council co-chair for the Council closed stating “We are here today to begin the process of building a mechanism for engagement that will work: the System-wide and Facility-based Collaboration Councils. Let’s proceed in a spirit of true collaboration in pursuit of our shared goal.”

The second meeting of the System-wide Collaboration Council took place  on Friday, December 11th, 2015 where the work of putting ideas to action, especially the successful roll out of the Facility-based Committees, continued. In February, 2016, Facility-based Collaboration Councils will launch at each of the 22 NYC Health + Hospitals facilities.

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