Nurses say hospital is putting patients at risk

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POUGHKEEPSIE – Nurses in the Emergency Department (ED) at Vassar Brothers Medical Center (VBMC) are accusing the hospital and its parent company, Nuvance Health, of putting patients at risk by not have enough staff in the facility. The hospital says they are working to hire more staff.

Erika Francisco, a 15-year nurse in the Vassar Emergency Department, told Mid-Hudson News, “There is certainly short-staffing in the ED and throughout the hospital and it is putting the patients at risk.”  The nurse described conditions at the new hospital that include patients waiting in the ED lobby between two and 12 hours because there is no room available for treatment in the 67-bed unit.

According to Francisco, the delay is because patients that have been treated in the emergency department and have been admitted, are held in the ED because there is not enough nursing staff to move the patients to another floor. “Nurses upstairs are already managing seven to eight patients so they can’t take any additional ones, which causes the patients to be held in the ED.”  Francisco pointed out that some admitted patients have been held in the ED for up to 45 hours.

The overflow of patients in the ED is requiring many patients to wait in the lobby anywhere from two to 12 hours, under the supervision of hospital security rather than trained medical staff.

“This is not a new issue and it’s not COVID related,” said Francisco. “It’s been going on for two or three years.”  The nurses, members of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), recently sent an email to hospital officials, raising their concerns again.  The letter from the ED staff said in part, “All the emergency workers are tired, feel unheard, give it our all every single shift, only to learn that we are still not doing enough. We are being asked to move faster to decrease LOS (length of stay), take more patients even when acuity is high while maintaining patient safety and providing exceptional care.  All while being told we have to smile at our EMS colleagues who continue to speak poorly of us and this hospital.”

On June 18, Governor Cuomo signed legislation, the first in the country, that will dictate staffing levels for nursing homes and hospitals.  Beginning in January, according to NYSNA, there will be a process for setting and enforcing staffing standards at every hospital and nursing home, regardless of whether the facility is public or private, not-for-profit of for-profit, union, or non-union.

When asked about the staffing shortage, VBMC spokesman John Nelson said “Nuvance Health and Vassar Brothers Medical Center are committed to safe, high-quality patient care and are dedicated to our entire workforce. Staffing and scheduling present some of the greatest challenges for both nonprofit hospitals and other organizations across industries.”

Nelson noted that Nuvance is working on recruiting new staff for Vassar. Those recruitment efforts include virtual job fairs for registered nurses and other positions throughout the Nuvance health system (nuvancehealth.org/careers).