Interview with Evelyn Sims, December 12, 1976

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Interview with Evelyn Sims, December 12, 1976
Sims, Evelyn ( Interviewee )
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University of Florida Health Science Center Oral History Collection ( local )
University of Florida -- History


This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
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This interview is part of the 'University of Florida Health Center' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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Interviewee: Ms. Evelyn Sims

Interviewer: Ms. Marilyn Mapels

December 1, 1976



This is an interview with Evelyn Sims, currently an accountant at the
Health Center, and it is part of the University of Florida Health Center
Oral History Project.

Mrs. Sims was hired by the University in 1956 as an accountant, and she
transferred to Shands Teaching Hospital in October of 1958 where she has
worked since. Her duties have included establishing billing and coding
procedures for all of the medical departments, billing patients for
medical services performed, and handling complaints or inquiries patients
have concerning their bills. She takes this last responsibility very
seriously because many of the patients treated at Shands are older people
who are illiterate and who rely solely upon medicare to pay their bills.

In the rest of the interview Mrs. Sims discusses some of the employees,
staff, and faculty she has worked with at the Health Center. She fells
that the closeness and personal contact Health Center employees enjoyed
during the Center's first years of existence has been lost as the complex
has grown and expanded.

S: Presently, I am in the capacity of Accountant two in Shands
Teaching Hospital and Clinics. I came here to Shands on October
the tenth, 1958. The hospital opened October twentieth, 1958.
But I came from campus, where I was originally hired on March
one, 1956. I was hired as the bookkeeping operator one. I was
hired by Nancy Haygood, who is still on campus.

Mr. Price was then controller for the university. He had a
profound effect upon my life because I admired him so very, very
much. He retired shortly after I came to work. At the last time
that I heard, he is still with us on this earth. I value his
friendship very highly.

So, when I came over to set up the bookkeeping system at the
Shands Teaching Hospital, the floors were not down in the
business office. Therefore, we were housed in the Med-Science
Building in the offices that are presently now occupied by the
vice-president or president. I imagine it is the president on
the left-hand side.

I: This is the vice-president.

S: It is? Of health and science? We had two bookkeeping machines;
they were Burrows, and they used what was known as eight-channel
tape. The eight-channel tape is like old-time teletype tape, and
you take it off at the end of the day, and they put it on an IBM
converter, which converted it to cards. Well, that was lots of
fun, because when you had trouble, you called Burrows first.
They checked out your machine, then you called the IBM man. He
checked out his machine. The burrows man said it must be in the
IBM part, and the IBM people said, "Nope, it is not ours, it must
be in the Burrows part." So, we had fun.

When I came over--it was all brand new, it was search and find,
it was hide and go seek, and I had a lot of problems. The first
thing that I noticed was that the Burrows machines did not have
reverse debits and reverse credits. The salesman looked at me as
though he thought I had lost my mind, and he said, "Why would you
need a reverse debit? I have never heard of a reverse debit and
a reverse credit." So I explained to him in the university
system, you have to keep everything within the confines of debits
and credits. The university goes to Tallahassee, and you have to
have it all in both columns, debits and reverse debits, credits
and reverse. Since we were part of campus, we would have to do
the same thing. But he said, "A reverse debit is a credit, why
not put it over in the field, and a reverse credit is a debit,
why do not you put it that field?" But I said "That is not the
way the bookkeeping at the University of Florida goes," because
of the tie-in with Tallahassee. Therefore, the first
modifications to the machines had to be the reverse debits and
the reverse credits. A reverse debit would be a drug that was
not used. And then the reverse credit would be back checks,
and/or errors both ways. So we got over that hurdle within about
a week, and then we started saving up the actual books.

Then Jim Story was then made the controller. He was over in
insurance collection, purchasing, in financing accounting. That
was our section of finance and accounting. He was very, very
busy, and Nancy and I, were left to work out any problems that we
had. It was most complicated in those days, because a pharmacy
charge had to be coded to whether it was a routine or antibiotic,
and then the doctor's number, and whether it was in-patient, or
out-patient or PDC patient. Out-patient was originally set up,
for those who were not able to pay much. The PDC patient was a
private, diagnostic patient, and you had different ledgers for
each kind of patients that were seen. It was not but about six
weeks before the private was seen in the out-patient, and the
out-patient was seen in the private, you could not keep it up.
You did not know. A doctor would see his private patients in
another area, and they would stamp the charge as being in that
area, not that type of patient. So, that was fun, really.

If I did not lose my mind on that, I think I was ready to go on
to the next phase. But, when we opened the business office, Dr.
Reeves, who was chief radiologist, did not see the need to give
us codes to post his charges. "Oh," he said, "Everything in due
time, I will give you codes when the time is right." He saw the
patients, however and sent the charges to us. So, under state
law, we were very obedient. We still are. We posted the charges
then, but we did not have the items, like the chest, the tibia,
the fibula, fingers, the toes, and so forth. So, we just started
at 101. We had a chest, and then we had a tibia, and we had a
fibula, and so forth down the line. In six weeks he gave us
codes, so what we had done was obsolete. That was interesting.

But one of the funniest things was, Jim, one day, came out at
8:30, and he said, "Evelyn, we are just going to half charges on
the out-patient. We are going to half them, and the upper half
will be posted somewhere else." And I said, "All right." And so
I went posting merrily along the way, or had the student post
merrily along the way, and at noon, he said, "Hold the fort, it
is three-fourths." I said, "All right, I will go back and take
out all the halves that I have done this morning, and I will put
three-fourths on the book, and put one-fourth on the other
ledger." So, that was fine. So at 4:30, he came back, and said,
"I am terribly sorry, but they should all be halves." So the
three-fourths had to be taken out and then re-posted at halves.

This is just a small example of the problems that we had at the
beginning. But I think I have gotten a little ahead of myself,
because I was still down in the (inaudible). We finally got over
into our area, but we did not get into the business offices as
such; we were housed for a while with the machines in the
computer room. The computer room was floored at the time, and
they were rolled into that room. But we finally got out into the
main offices when the floors were finished. We still were
setting up the books when we had our grand opening, and we had
our patient number one, who was Nancy Smith. She was a young
girl, I think from Williston. And she grew up and came back to
the twelfth annual opening of the Shands Teaching Hospital. She

was a beautiful young girl, then, after twelve years.

There have been tears, there have been sorrows, there have been
heartaches, but I have enjoyed each and every minute of it. And,
of course, with each passing of the bosses or the employees, a
little of me goes with them. I declare that I will never like
anybody else again, as long as I live, but I do.

When Mr. Story left, I thought that I would never have another
boss that I liked as well as him, but then came Mr. Lowell(?),
and he was a doll. Since he left, we still correspond. Then
after Mr. Lowell left, I believe, I believe Mr. Smith was the
boss. Ted Smith. And he went down to Cocoa Rockridge. And I
hear from him once in awhile. Then Mr. Tucker came. And then I
just knew there could be no one like Mr. Tucker. He was just
simply fantastic. And he has now gone to Toledo, Ohio, and he
has a fantastic job there, and we shall always miss him.

I wish I had maintained a log all this time. To know the number
of people who have come and gone, it is a shame in the length of
time that they stayed. In the beginning, as now, we were short
of personnel. We hired students, and they would stay until they
graduated, and I have had students that went on to be teachers,
lawyers, doctors, accountants, and I have enjoyed all of them.
They have just been super, some more than others, but all of them
I have thoroughly enjoyed.

I: What of the students, which ones became doctors, do you remember?

S: Well, Dr. Fennell is one. [Robert S. Fennell, III, Assistant
Professor of Pediatric Nephrology]

I: Oh, really?

S: He worked in the business. We have moved and moved and moved,
back and forth, mostly to our area. In the beginning, when the
floors were finally down, patient accounting, finance and
accounting, purchasing, insurance, and collections were in that
section. Then purchasing moved downstairs, and that gave us room
for collections to expand. Then admissions came over, and
admissions, finance and accounting, collections, and patient
accounting were in the section. So, Dr. Fennell, who was then
with Dr. Kays in renal medicine, worked for admissions on the
weekends, charging in our area.

I have always been charging, patient ledgers, and cash. I have
always been right in the same section. I have moved from one
office to the other office. The last move that was made, I
teased Mr. Tucker, and said, "Well, there is only one other move
for me, and that was out the front door," because I had moved
from the back to the front.

Just before Mr. Lowell came, we had a young man on campus who was
a Philipino. He was a graduate student, and he still had quite a
bit of accent from the Philippine Islands. He was a graduate

accountant, and no matter what you asked him, he said, "I do not
know. Mrs. Sims told me too." So there was a particular bit of
the accounting that he could never quite get clear. He could
not. And every time he would get there, he would draw a blank,
so I would tell him what to do.

One day, my desk was out in the main business posting area, and
he went to Mr. Story, and he turned up the soles of his shoes, he
said, "You see, this is my shoes, and the soles are wearing thin
going to Mrs. Sims to talk to her. Would you put her desk in
this office, so I will not wear out my shoes?" So Mr. Story put
him in the same office, so he would not wear out his shoes. But
Hernando Carino C-A-R-I-N-O, was quite a young fellow.

Those were very hard times, because we did not know the things we
know now, but they seemed to be happy times. We worked very,
very hard. Now this was before the Wage and Hour Law, and many,
many mornings, I would come to work at seven o'clock, I would
stay all day long, and I would not leave till three a.m. the
following morning. When anything is that new and growing that
fast, I felt if I did not constantly turn the papers over and
know what I had, that they would just blow away. I would never
regain the train of thought because I had no one to rely upon.
Mr. Story had his hands full.

My immediate boss, Nancy Folsom, threw up her hands because she
had three children to rear, and she was not making enough money
to support them. She said, she did not have enough money to buy
their clothes, their food, and buy milk. When she left, I had
everything to do, because I had no one to fall back on. And I
had students, therefore, the time built up very rapidly.

I do not regret one moment of it. I have enjoyed all of it.
Tears and sorrow, and there have been tears. But, through it
all, I have enjoyed it. Right now, with the reorganization, I
find myself relating to the beginning. I think I have more
strength because I went through that period. I have more
strength than the younger employees do. I have more patience,
more tolerance of it than they because they did not go through
the time of the beginning.

So, I really do not know where we are going, and this is one of
our troubles. People have complained about their bills, but they
did this in the beginning also. I remember so distinctly, a
gentleman came, soon after we opened, and he said, "Lady, I am
sorry to tell you, but your bill does not add up." And I looked
at it and said, "Yes, sir, it adds up. This column plus column,
minus this, plus this, equals that." He said, "I do not
disbelieve you, but I can not see it. Would you mind giving me a
pencil and a piece of paper?" And I said, "Gladly." So he added
it up and said, "It does add up." And I said, "Yes, sir, it
does." So people have complained, and some of them legitimately.

I tried so hard, as long as the billing was in our area, to have
patience. A lot of times people get excited, and if someone will

only talk to them, and care, you can straighten things out. But,
when you do not seem to care, then that antagonizes them, and it
gets worse and worse. And, to me, I have always thought that the
patients were one of our most important items that we deal with
daily. Oh, you can take one and one, and always make two out of
it; that is an exact science. But when you deal with your
patients, they are as fragile as china, and I think frightfully

I think by far the most important thing is the patient. Now, not
to give the patient just lip service, I think the patient is
important. We are absolutely one of the finest schools, in the
southeast. But after our patients are cared for, and we have
done miraculous things to bring their health back, is the mental
anguish of the bills afterwards. I have been at meetings where I
have heard the patients being given lip service. But I like to
see them, not only get lip service, I like to see that they are
listened to. It is their pocketbooks, it is their money, and we
should go to the nth degree to see that they are taken care of.
And that has always been my goal, and I have tried very, very
hard to do this when I came in contact.

Usually, having been here as long as I have been, I would only
get them when they were at the last ditch. They were so angry
when they would come in I would be afraid that they would have a
heart attack -in my office. I would have to exchange petty, minor
things with them to get them calmed down enough that I could talk
to them, and reason with them. So I do know how angry, how
upset, how frustrated they could be with it, especially with
Medicare patients. They are sick, they are old, they do not
understand. Some of them read, some of them do not read, but
they have a feeling that something is not quite right, even if
they do not read. You have to deal with that segment of it. And
with the deductibles, and everything, they just do not understand
it, and you have to be very, very careful with them. And I feel
that these people are very important because they have been the
backbone of our society and have brought us to where we are
today. And therefore, I am very careful with them, or have been,
and I think they should be taken care of all the way down the

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