State Cites Wilkes-Barre General for “Systemic” Failure to Provide Adequate Nursing Staff
WILKES-BARRE, PA - Last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PA DOH) cited Wilkes-Barre General Hospital for systemic violations related to inadequate staffing and an industry watchdog group gave the hospital a “C” for patient safety.
In response to a large packet of documented patient care and staffing concerns at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital (WBGH) submitted by registered nurses of the Wyoming Valley Nurses Association in July, PA DOH initiated an unannounced onsite investigation on September 10 that concluded September 14.
Per their report, the PA DOH found a “systemic nature of non-compliance with regards to nursing services” citing, among other evidence, that management “failed to schedule a sufficient number of RNs and/or ancillary staff on the nursing units for 81 of 148 shifts reviewed.” The report found 91 open RN positions and reliance on an excessive use of overtime. (1)
Investigators cited WBGH for violations of nineteen state and federal health codes related to patient rights, staffing, and emergency services. The findings were based on interviews with at least 61 WBGH employees and multiple patients, as well as review of staffing grids, schedules, and selected medical records.
Elaine Weale, RN and union president of the Wyoming Valley Nurses Association, said “We have been raising nurses’ concerns to management on a day to day basis and throughout our contract bargaining. Community Health Systems has not established standards that will recruit and retain enough registered nurses. The report underlines what we’ve always said, they are putting profits before patients.”
Community Health Systems, based in Tennessee, is the largest for-profit hospital company in the United States and purchased Wyoming Valley Health Systems in 2008. In northeast Pennsylvania, their hospital system includes six hospitals operating as “Commonwealth Health”.
Inadequate staffing can spread nurses thin causing a negative impact on patient care. Last week, The Leapfrog Group, a independent hospital watchdog, gave a “C” grade to Wilkes-Barre General Hospital in their Fall 2018 hospital safety report. The report found performance to be below average on various metrics including the rate of some infections, patient falls, and dangerous bed sores. (2)
Research published last week by the UPenn School of Nursing surveyed 53,644 RNs and 805,881 patients in 535 hospitals in four states, including PA. They concluded that one in three RNs (29.6%) find patient safety to be “unfavorable” at their hospitals. Roughly 4 in 5 RNs rate their clinical work environment less than excellent. (3)
The Wyoming Valley Nurses Association is an affiliate of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, a union of dedicated nurses and health professionals across Pennsylvania, formed in 2000 and dedicated to the belief that patients receive the best care when clinical care staff has a strong voice to advocate for both patients and themselves. WVNA nurses have been in contract negotiations with the Hospital for the last year.
Union Representative, PASNAP
Elaine Weale, RN
President, Wyoming Valley Nurses Association
SUMMARY OF VIOLATIONS CITED BY PA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH