Montefiore brass to answer community gripes

Patients being transferred from Montefiore’s Westchester Square walk-in emergency facility to other Monte facilities.

An east Bronx community board is clashing with Montefiore Medical Center over what it says is increased overcrowding at a local hospital after Monte’s conversion of the old Westchester Square Medical Center into a freestanding emergency department.

Since March 2013, patients arriving at the new Montefiore Westchester Square facility needing emergency overnight care have been transported to one of Montefiore’s other Bronx facilities.

But that change has worsened an already long wait for service at Monte’s Weiler Division on the Einstein campus in Morris Park, charges Community Board 11, which covers Van Nest, Morris Park, Pelham Parkway and Allerton.

Massive wait times

“It’s gotten even worse there,” said Marcy Gross, co-chair of the board’s health committee. “It’s ridiculous to wait even five hours for a bed, and my elderly mother had to wait nearly 20 hours!”

According to the hospital’s own statistics, 128 patients were transferred from March-December 2013 to the Einstein/Weiler hospital just under a mile away.

Those patients landed at a hospital where the amount of demand for beds has skyrocketed over the last few years, outpacing the supply, said Wendy Braithwaite, who has been a nurse at the facility for over 10 years.

Many patients are forced to sleep overnight on stretchers packed into the hallway.

“To have a family come and visit you in the hallway is a bit demeaning,” said Braithwaite. “But we can only do what we can.”

Takeover the issue?

Beverly Michael, Monte’s vice president in charge of Weiler, acknowledged in a conference call with Montefiore brass that Weiler has experienced an increase in patients over the last three to four years.

But Montefiore’s chief of staff, Lynn Richmond, said that boost had nothing to do with the recent takeover of the Westchester Square site.

“Clearly the peaks in demand for service at Einstein significantly predate the change,” Richmond said.

Michael said the hospital was taking steps to combat the increased demand, including adding 21 beds on Weiler’s seventh floor in December 2013.

But Braithwaite said she and the other nurses are still overwhelmed.

The Weiler overcrowding problem is “not unheard of,” but not common at other hospitals, said Carl Ginsburg, spokesman for the New York State Nurses Association.

“Our position is that no one should be in the hallway. Period,” Ginsburg said. “Montefiore needs to have a plan in place to move patients to facilities with space.”

Worried about the ride

Leadership at the Montefiore-run Weiler Division plan to address community gripes at Community Board 11’s regularly scheduled health committee meeting Tuesday, Feb. 11. at 7 p.m.

Also on the board’s agenda are concerns about patient safety during the ride from Westchester Suare to the other hospitals.

Most of the 879 patients coming into Montefiore Westchester Square needing emergency care from March-December 2013 were driven nearly five miles away to be treated at Montefiore’s Wakefield facility on E. 233rd Street, which has recently added more space.

But the hospital said the drive has not been an issue.

“In nine or so months we did not experience a single problem with transporting an unstable patient, nor would we ever think about transporting someone who is not capable of being transported.” said Montefiore vice-president Dr. Peter Semczuk in a phone interview, adding: “With lights and sirens you can actually get there pretty quickly.”

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 742–3393. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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