Sutter Health Volunteers, Staff To Help Hospitalized Patients Vote
Volunteers and staff at four not-for-profit Sutter Health facilities are working to ensure that patients who are hospitalized on Election Day are still able to vote. On Nov. 7 and 8, many patients—from new mothers to people who have had heart attacks—will find themselves unexpectedly hospitalized. These individuals may not have planned on spending Election Day in a hospital gown, but teams at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital and Sutter Roseville Medical Center are dedicated to helping them cast their ballots.
“Our patients are people first, with responsibilities and commitments that go well beyond the time we spend caring for them in our facilities, and we respect that,” said Chris Waugh, Sutter Health’s chief innovation officer. “This gesture is one small way we can show how we care for our patients as a whole.”
At Alta Bates Summit Medical Center’s three campuses (Herrick and Alta Bates in Berkeley, Summit in Oakland), Susan Abalos, volunteers director, leads the effort. Over two days, Abalos’ volunteer team will work to connect hospitalized registered voters with absentee ballots in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Patients will be given the opportunity to vote if they are registered voters and have not previously requested an absentee ballot.
“This amounts to two fairly intense days,” says Abalos, “But it’s a tradition we’ve had and it’s worth it.”
Karleen Ballmer, manager of volunteer services at Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento (SMCS) says she finds many patients are civic-minded and want to have their vote counted, “They don’t expect to be in the hospital on Election Day, and they still want to exercise their right to vote. If we didn’t provide this service, they would miss out on the chance to have their voice heard.”
Rhoda Kitchen, 41, of Sacramento has been hospitalized at SMCS due to an embolism since Nov. 3. “I’ve never voted before in any other election, and this one is so important,” she said. “Being in the hospital, I didn’t think I’d be able to vote. I was like, ‘Darn it, now I won’t be able to vote at all and I won’t be able to voice my opinion.’ But now I will!”
Rose Calhan, R.N., Alta Bates Summit’s Chief Operating Officer feels lucky to have a volunteer team dedicated to ensuring every eligible patient has the opportunity to participate in this great American tradition. “Volunteers are busy, community-minded people who devote their spare time to the well-being of others. Their generous gift of their time to the medical center is invaluable. This particular project enhances the lives of our patients by providing them the opportunity to make their vote count,” Calhan observed.