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Deeper problems at Washington Co. Hospital?

A new building won't fix everything that's wrong

A new building won't fix everything that's wrong

August 01, 2004|By Bob Rollins

I've read a lot about the new hospital and expect that it will be built at Robinwood and will be a fine facility. I would like to comment on something that has been largely ignored in the discussion of the new hospital building and, to a larger extent, the geographical considerations of the site.

A hospital is a building. Care is given by people working there. Where is there any discussion of the caring people who staff the current building and the staff required to staff the new hospital?

We have been subjected to yellow and red alerts, closing of the trauma center, and other personnel-related problems for several years now. While the current hospital facility is adequate, personnel shortages have caused these problems, and a new building will not solve them.

Recently, my mother spent her last days in the hospital. The shortage of help was noticeable. While her room was quite adequate, perhaps suffering a little from deferred maintenance, without the assistance of her family and privately provided caregivers, I would have considered her care inadequate. The staff was obviously overworked or shorthanded and tried to do the best they could, but some things were left undone.

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I also noted, while searching out the cafeteria to eat and fetch a snack for the patient, that the hospital was advertising for more than 20 caregivers, mostly on the nursing staff.

I also had a few discussions with staff members about help shortages, working hours, and equipment malfunctions, which indicated that working conditions are less than satisfactory.

The hospital is a business. It is a very complicated business with over 20 interlinked for-profit and nonprofit organizations trying to work as a whole. There has been very little press coverage and no discussion by the hospital of how this complicated management system functions and probably few people would understand its complexities. Like any business, it probably attempts to operate efficiently at the lowest cost and highest profit possible to the profit making parts of the organization.

Every day we read about other businesses laying off personnel, automating their facilities, outsourcing work once done by employees and other personnel-related business actions.

We read about high labor costs, the cost of benefits for full-time employees and the lack of jobs for skilled people. It almost appears that working people are the largest problem facing business. I expect that this is true for the hospital

Where is the discussion of staffing and personnel requirements for the new hospital? We read about the nice private rooms in the new facility but nothing about how the wards will be staffed with twice as many rooms to cover due to the conversion to single rooms.

The new hospital is advertised as having capabilities the current hospital does not have, even though the current facility cannot be fully utilized because of insufficient personnel.

I would welcome a discussion of the plans related to the provision of people to staff the new hospital, in addition to the long-running discussions of where it will be located and the brick, mortar, and sophisticated machinery that will go into it.

I believe most of the problems cited regarding the current facility could be solved with people. And if they are not considered in its planning we will not have a new hospital, we will have a technological monument.




Bob Rollins is a resident of Boonsboro.

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