Monte Med Center dealing with ER, bed wait crunch at Weiler

Photo by Ben Kochman

The Bronx’s biggest hospital is dealing with a major overcrowding problem.

Now Montefiore Medical Center and an east Bronx Community Board are hashing out a strategy to fix it.

Hospital brass met with Community Board 11 Tuesday Feb. 11 to brainstorm ways to ease what locals say are unbearable wait times for care in the emergency room at Monte’s Weiler Division on the Albert Einstein Campus.

Monte staff at the meeting admitted that they’ve had to deal with overcrowding at its in-patient units —meaning those with overnight beds — for years now.

“It’s not an easy issue,” said Beverly Michael, executive director at the Weiler Campus. “We’ve tackled this problem for a while.”

Two-way street

The problem came into sharp focus in March 2013, when the healthcare titan took over the nearby bankrupt Westchester Square Medical Center. Among the many changes it made was to remove 140 overnight beds.

But it’s not just the hospital’s fault for the long bed wait, said Roberto Garcia, Montefiore’s senior director of community and governmental relations.

The community needs to meet Montefiore in the middle to fix the problems, he said.

Many patients clogging the Einstein emergency room use Weiler as their primary healthcare facility —or are among the 269,000 Bronxites estimated to have no insurance at all.

Monte’s been opening up Urgent Care Centers to deal with smaller issues such as ear infections and common colds, Garcia said. But locals need to use those sites to loosen up the jam at Weiler.

“Whether it’s a heart attack or a toothache, we can’t turn anyone away at Weiler,” Garcia said. “If we can refer people to those urgent care sites, then a lot of the space can be freed up.”

Another reason for the overcrowding is the massive number of Bronxites without health insurance, he noted. Those folks instead wait until a health issue is dire enough to require an ER visit.

Uninsured locals have until March 31 to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act before a fee kicks in. Those confused by the process can swing by a Monte site and ask for a “Certified Application Counselor” to guide them.

More honesty on space

Locals at the meeting suggested that Montefiore be more up front about the lack of bed space.

Nurses at Weiler have reported that even with the added 21 beds Einstein put in on its seventh floor in December 2013, some patients spend the night in the hallway.

“You need to tell people that the hospital is full,” said Pat Quaranta, a longtime community board member who serves on Einstein’s advisory board. “When people are waiting there with their loved ones, and they don’t know when they are going in, that makes it even worse.”

Spreading out patients

Part of the problem at Weiler may stem from a misunderstanding about how the newly renovated Montefiore Westchester Square site works.

Though that site has no overnight beds on its premises, patients can be quickly shuffled to one of Montefiore’s other facilities —which together contain 1,512 beds — in the borough.

“The wait times at Westchester Square are actually lower a lot of the time,” Garcia said.

Monte brass said they would continue to show up at community meetings to work on the issue —and locals plan to ramp up the pressure until the issues are resolved.

“This is something that we’ve let go,” said Marcy Gross, co-chair of the Board’s health committee. “The Bronx has been No.1 in quality care since I’ve been born. We have to figure out a way to fix this.”

Reach Reporter Ben Kochman at (718) 742–3394. E-mail her at Follow him on Twitter @benkochman.

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