Friday, April 07, 2006

HHSC Collapse Round Up

An anonymous HHSC Employee has begun a new blog today. This is someone still on the inside, and so it will be interesting to see what they have to say. My own experience of blogging about HHSC while still working there showed me that blogging anonymously about HHSC when you still work there is probably a good idea.

The intrepid reporter Samm Almaguer has the text of a letter that Commissioner Albert Hawkins sent out to HHSC staff, about the lattest delays in rolling out the new system that doesn't work. He also has more commentary from his contacts on the inside.

Off the Kuff comments on the predictability of the failure of this call center.

The reason why this call center is not working is that the policies that have to be applied are very complicated. Many people on the outside think that everyone who works in welfare is an idiot, and so anyone out to be able to do it with very little training. The reality is that even after 6 months of very good training, it took me an additional 6 months of working in the field before I was not constantly having to ask people questions about how to deal with situations that are not obviously spelled in policy. It took about another year before I felt very comfortable with my knowledge of the job, and even at that, as the years went by I often learned new things that I was doing wrong for years. Aside from that, policies constantly change, because politicians and federal agencies are constantly monkeying with the policy. And so it is not likely that call centers that are planning on paying people a little bit above minimum wage are going to be able to retain the staff that will stay long enough to master all this information... and so consequently, they are giving people the run around, and very often referring them to call the local offices, that now no longer have the staff to manage their work, or even answer their phones. I have a very difficult time keeping in touch with some of my former co-workers, and I have their direct numbers. But even if they paid people enough money to stay in these call centers, they should have known it was going to take about a year or two before these new employers would have been much good.

Also, the "solution" of hiring temps to fill the jobs of HHSC eligibility workers is a joke. Temps don't stay, because they are looking for something permanent. They also do not get anything close to sufficient training, and as a result, aside from filling clerical functions, they are not that much help. Some temps come along with time, and start getting good enough to be of some help, but just about that time, they leave. The result is a lot of money wasted, and a lot of work not done.

This would all be very funny if it weren't for the fact that so many people were really suffering as a result of all this stupidity -- HHSC employees are going through hell trying to meet impossible expectations from an agency that has given them pink slips that are effective in May of 2006, and of course the people who depend on these benefits, are not only not getting benefits timely, but are having to go through all kinds of hell to try and get them, because they often have no choice but to do so.

Things will continue to fall apart rapidly in the next few months, unless some very serious and quick back-peddling begins... and not the kind were are seeing now, where they are just prolonging the agony. They need to reverse course, and start trying to rehire some of the staff that have left, and begin hiring permanent employees to replace the rest.