Internal D.C. Health Department memos released yesterday detail “significant improvements” at Greater Southeast Community Hospital, although problems remain in critical areas such as staffing and emergency room waiting time.
Health Department inspectors found overall improvements between July 29 and Aug. 28 in staffing, record keeping and the time that Greater Southeast patients must wait to receive treatment, according to records obtained by The Washington Times via the Freedom of Information Act.
“Staffing in the [Emergency Department] has definitely improved,” an unidentified inspector wrote in an Aug. 27 memo to Judith McPherson, program manager for the Health Department.
However, the inspector also found during the same visit several patients who had waited as long as eight hours for treatment. The inspector said among 12 such patients was a pregnant teenager complaining of abdominal cramps.
The release of the Health Department inspection reports provides the first insight into whether conditions at the troubled hospital are improving after the loss of Greater Southeast’s license in January.
“The hospital has made significant improvements in certain areas,” said Health Department spokeswoman Vera Jackson.
Greater Southeast operates under a consent decree with the Health Department. The hospital has 60 days to improve staffing, record keeping, power system equipment and emergency room operations to remain open.
The Health Department will decide next month whether to restore the hospital’s license.
Health Department officials caution that it is too early to speculate on the hospital’s long-term future.
But the “significant improvements” noted in the new inspection reports contrast sharply with earlier findings that linked the deaths of six patients between January 2000 to July to staffing shortages, a lack of oversight and management failures.
“The turn-around time for patients to receive service was consistent with the standards of care,” an inspector wrote in an Aug. 1 memo. “Staffing, although not 100 percent, was very good.”
On Aug. 6, an inspector said “staff continues to make attempts to assess patients as quickly as possible.”
An Aug. 16 inspection found that “the staff was observed to be pleasant and teamwork was evident.”
Despite the improvements, inspectors found several areas in which services must improve. The inspectors faulted staffing shortages for emergency room closures that happened at least twice per week last month.
On July 24 and 25, inspectors said the emergency room closed for four to six hours at a time because of nursing staff problems.
Personnel files of several hospital nurses did not contain proof of criminal background checks or certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, according to an Aug. 26 Health Department memo.
And on Aug. 18, when the emergency room was full, a nurse told her supervisor that she would not “take her assignment if there continues to be a consistent flow of patients,” according an inspection report.