Luis Hospital restores beds to alleviate E.R. congestion, hires nurses
Published: February 14, 2013
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ST. CROIX - Luis Hospital has reopened a number of medical-surgical beds, which in turn has helped relieve severe congestion in the emergency room, officials said.
In addition, since the Luis Hospital board approved significant raises for its registered nurses earlier this year, the hospital has seen a surge of new hires, with 30 registered nurses who have come on board - or are scheduled to - during January and February, and an additional 15 in the pipeline, according to information presented at a Luis Hospital board meeting Wednesday.
"That strategy worked immediately and it worked beyond our expectations," Luis Hospital Chief Nursing Officer Terry Lynch said of the pay raise.
A severe nursing shortage and regulatory compliance issues led hospital officials in December to combine the medical unit with the surgical unit, decreasing the overall number of medical-surgical beds from 30 to 28 - although at the time, seven of the 28 beds were being used by boarders, patients who were medically stable and ready for discharge, but who could not be discharged because of social issues.
The lack of available beds in turn created congestion and a back-up in the emergency room, as patients who were being admitted wound up occupying beds and stretchers in the ER until a bed opened upstairs.
Lynch said Wednesday that with the beds officials reopened last weekend, a total of 41 medical-surgical beds now are available.
"It's all in an effort to address the overflow in the ER," she said.
Hospital board member Dr. Anthony Ricketts said things in the Emergency Department are improving.
"We have decompressed the ED and we are working hard to continue that," he said after the meeting, referring to Emergency Department.
However, at this point, staffing challenges continue and the situation is not ideal, Lynch said.
To accomplish reopening the beds, officials had to increase the nurse-to-patient ratio - from one nurse to five patients, to one nurse to seven - Lynch said.
"It's not ideal," she said. "We do have some challenges with the staffing."
To help compensate, senior managers have increased their rounds, Lynch said.
"I won't present that we're where we want to be - where we need to be," she said. However, officials are doing what they can, Lynch said.
Also, once the new hires all begin working and are finished with orientation, officials may be able to rework the staffing plan, she said.
Ellenor Paul-O'Neil, chief of Talent Resources, told the board that in January, 10 full-time RNs were brought on board. From the beginning of February through the 28th, officials will have brought an additional 20 RNs on board, Paul-O'Neil said.
Another 15 RNs have been interviewed and accepted offers, but they are awaiting placement or working out other issues, such as relocation, she said.
Paul-O'Neil and Lynch said the new hires are a mix of locals and people from off-island. Some are travelers who worked at Luis before but did not join the staff before because of low wages, Lynch said.
After having a "statement of public need" describing a critical nursing shortage read into the record at a board meeting Jan. 11, the Luis Hospital board voted to implement major salary increases for its registered nurses in an attempt to recruit and retain more nurses.
The raises were part of a proposed collective bargaining agreement with the V.I. State Nurses Association that has not been implemented because not all parties have signed it.
Luis officials went ahead and implemented the raises, although Schneider Regional Medical Center and the V.I. Health Department - which have not signed the agreement - have not.
The matter is the subject of an unfair labor practices charge the union filed with the Public Employee Relations Board in January.
- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.