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Employee of the Year

Oriol SandwellOriol Sandwell, Patient Advocate

When a Community Hospital patient got into a billing dispute with his insurance company, involving a large sum of money and a large number of headaches, Oriol Sandwell stepped in and successfully appealed the case on his behalf. That's why Sandwell is officially called the hospital's "patient advocate," a position created to help solve problems related to billing.

Sandwell was named Employee of the Year for 2009, but she would rather talk about her job than herself.

"When Daisy Noguera, director of Patient Business Services, first told me, I was so honored to be nominated," Sandwell says. "All of the eight other finalists are outstanding employees who richly deserve this recognition.

"What's most meaningful is what this says about the importance of my role as patient advocate."

In 2008, the hospital recognized the need for advocacy for those patients overwhelmed by their diagnoses, their treatment, and then the paperwork from their insurance company and many medical providers.

"They really needed someone able to pull it all together, and this is how the position came about," says Sandwell, formerly a customer service coordinator in the hospital's billing department.

One of the accomplishments cited in her nomination for Employee of the Year is an education program about Community Hospital financial processes that Sandwell presents to community groups.

"We created the content from numerous sources," she says. "It's called ‘Financially Speaking with a Human Touch.' We show how Community Hospital's financial department is part of your healthcare team.

"Part of my job is to help the community understand healthcare costs and to work with patients to get these costs covered or reduced. I help them apply for federal, state, or hospital assistance programs, and I often serve as a liaison between patients and their doctors' offices in the billing process. All of it is personalized; all of it is done with a human touch."

Although Sandwell believes it's the inherent value of her job that earned her the Employee of the Year award, patients and coworkers recognize that she is responsible for the impact of her role, describing her as cheerful, composed, professional, reliable, and a great team player.

"I am honored to receive this award," she says. "It has been a remarkable experience. I am so very fortunate to work with the people I do; we work as a unit and we really have the best interest of our patients at heart."

The other finalists for the award were: Tess Alcantara, John Bayless, Al Bettencourt, Teresa DeSilva, Donna Falknor, John Juster, Sandra Negrete, and Linda Vaughn.