UPDATE – East Bronx locals tired of the long waits at Montefiore Medical Center’s Weiler Division in Morris Park should take their ailments elsewhere, a top ranking hospital official said Thursday.
The comment came after after meeting with a slew of politicians to hopefully hash out a plan to combat overcrowding there.
The borough’s largest healthcare chain laid out a strategy May 1 to shepherd locals suffering from non-life-threatening issues to other buildings in the Monte network, including walk-in urgent care sites, including the nearby Montefiore Westchester Square hospital.
“Patients should consider using our urgent care centers and certainly our Westchester Square Emergency Department for less critical issues,” said Peter Semczuk, Montefiore’s vice president of clinical services.
Since March 2013, Montefiore Westchester has been used as a “freestanding emergency department,” with outpatient services, but with no overnight beds. The hospital instead busses those patients to other Monte hosptials.
Semczuk said the average time to see a doctor at Westchester Square Medical Center is a mere 37 minutes – far faster than the wait time at Weiler, which locals complain has ballooned into several hours waiting time over the last few years.
A group of east Bronx pols –including Assemblymen Mike Benedetto and Mark Gjonaj, and Councilmember Jimmy Vacca – held a press conference Thursday outside Weiler’s emergency room at the Einstein campus to put the heat on the hospital to answers locals’ gripes.
Besides the long wait times, patients and nurses have reported that the facility is so cramped that some patients spend the night on gurneys in the hallway.
“We need to hold their feet to the fire,” said Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, vice president of the New York State Nurses Association. “We know there’s places where beds can be opened [in Weiler], so our patients don’t have to languish in hallways and on stretchers cramped in the emergency department.”
Monte brass said the hospital will shortly launch a marketing campaign and hand out pamphlets pushing patients to go to other facilities and ease the pressure on Weiler.
But Monte’s Semczuk said he would not commit to adding any beds to Weiler.
He would only that the hospital would “carefully look at opportunities to expand in-patient bed capacity.”
“We’ve already added 100 beds, and if we need to add more beds, we will add more beds,” he said. “It is not exactly clear where in the system we would do that.”
The hospital would also not commit to hiring more nurses to deal with the overcrowding.
“We continue to look at our staffing levels each and every day to make sure we are meeting the needs of our patients,” said Semczuk.
Benedetto called Thursday’s meeting a “giant step forward.”
“Where before we were angry, we’ve come out extremely hopeful,” he said. “I can only say that we are very encouraged with the results.”
Elected officials said they would be keeping tabs on progress and would be checking back in three months.
“The bottom line for me is, I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Vacca. “I want everyone to understand that the assemblyman, that I, that the community, are committed to seeing this through.”
— with Patrick Rocchio