Local nurses are calling the current realignment of hospital services in Schenectady County haphazard and are concerned it will affect their jobs and the care they provide to patients.
Ellis Hospital is shuffling many St. Clare’s Hospital’s medical services among itself and Bellevue Woman’s Health Center under a mandate by the state Department of Health. As part of the transition, Ellis will take over St. Clare’s inpatient services, including its critical care and pediatric services. Bellevue will take over women’s health care services, including births. Ellis took over Bellevue last year under the same state mandate.
“They have this plan on closing, but they did not have a plan on how to do it. One would think it would be done gradually and publicized. It is not happening that way. It’s been kind of like a mass delivery of services and a merger of seasoned staff into one facility,” said Teresa Jewett, a registered nurse at Ellis for 32 years and chairwoman of the local grievance committee of the New York State Nurses Association, the union representing 450 nurses at Ellis.
State Nurses Association spokesman Mark Genovese said the “main concern of the nurses at Ellis and St. Clare’s is that the surrounding community that uses [St. Clare’s] has not been given sufficient notice about the impending closing. They are worried about the lack of access to care for the surrounding neighborhoods.”
He said nurses also are concerned that when the transition is complete, Ellis will not be properly staffed to handle the increased workload.
Jewett said Ellis is already understaffed and the new nurses will not be used to increase staff levels on the floors. The St. Clare’s nurses are being assigned to new beds that Ellis is opening in the C-wing, even though Ellis is experiencing increased patient loads on the floors and in its emergency room.
“We still remain below core staffing even with the new staff,” Jewett said. “Anytime you are understaffed, quality of care is always jeopardized. You want people to feel secure, and they are safe, but the nurse is burning herself out running around.”
Ellis spokeswoman Donna Evans said the hospital had no comment.
St. Clare’s will surrender its operating license Monday and cease to function as a full-service Catholic hospital open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It will remain open primarily as an urgent care center offering same-day services, but it will stop accepting inpatients after June 20. St. Clare’s opened in 1949 and is operated by the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese.
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