Protest over ER waits, hallway beds at Monte’s Weiler Division

Roberto Garcia, senior director of community and governmental relations at Montefiore Medical Center, and Beverly Michael, executive director at the Weiler Campus, strategize with Community Board 11 members on ways to decrease wait time at its Weiler Division in Morris Park.
Photo by Ben Kochman

They’re tired of waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

A host of Bronx elected officials is demanding that Montefiore Medical Center find a way to speed up waiting time in the emergency room at its Weiler Division on the Einstein campus in Morris Park.

They also want Monte to fix a dearth of available hospital beds that has meant patients spending the night on gurneys in hallways.

The pols – including Assemblyman Mike Benedetto, Councilmember Jimmy Vacca, Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj and Rep. Joe Crowley – had plans at press time to meet with high-level Montefiore staff Thursday morning, May 1, before addressing the public at a press conference later that afternoon.

Thursday’s meeting and conference were expected to occur after the Times Reporter’s Wednesday print deadline.

Spike in ER demand

East Bronx locals have long griped that wait times to see a doctor at Weiler have ballooned in recent years, even before the neighborhood lost 140 overnight beds at nearby Westchester Square Medical Center when Montefiore converted that bankrupt hospital into an outpatient facility.

The Westchester Square center now has no overnight beds, but ambulances can shuttle patients to one of Montefiore’s other facilities, which together contain 1,512 beds.

Beverly Michael, Monte’s vice president who oversees Weiler, admitted in a phone interview in February that the Morris Park hospital has seen a spike in emergency room demand over the past three to four years.

Monte: we’re trying!

Montefiore says it has taken recent steps to combat the overcrowding, including:

•Adding 21 beds to the 7th floor of the Weiler campus

• Hiring nine board-certified Emergency Medicine physicians

•Employing so-called “nurse navigators,” who direct patients who might not need emergency room service to primary care centers

But the complaints have just kept on coming.

“Whatever they have been doing so far has not worked,” complained Tony Vitaliano, chairman of Community Board 11, which met with Monte brass at a Feb. 11 public meeting.

Nights in hallways

The lack of bed space at Weiler is so dire, say patients, that some patients wind up sleeping on gurneys in hallways overnight.

“It felt like we were cattle,” said Jack Ciaccia, 48, who said that his whole floor was swamped with beds when he checked into Weiler on a recent morning to undergo gall bladder surgery, “There were gurneys everywhere. They couldn’t even wheel me to the X-ray machine.”

“To have a family come and visit you in the hallway is a bit demeaning,” Wendy Braithwaite, a nurse at the site for over 10 years, told the Times-Reporter back in February, months after the hospital had added the extra 21 beds.

Going public w/gripes

Local pols had been clamoring for a meeting with Monte staff for months, but got the cold shoulder until threatening to hold a press conference, said Assemblyman Benedetto.

“We understand that these problems are not simple to solve, but they should not be happening,” said Benedetto. “We need to know that they are developing a plan, we want to know what is the possible timetable, and we want to get some community dialogue going permanently, so future issues can be addressed.”

Montefiore brass said they are hoping that Thursday’s meeting is the beginning of an “on-going partnership” between the hospital and the community.

“Based on initial conversations with Assemblyman Benedetto, Montefiore is committed to improving the patient experience and ensuring strong lines of communication with patients and community leaders, Montefiore vice president Peter Semczuk said in a statement Wednesday.

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

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