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Marin General Hospital Needs to Take Nurses' Concerns Seriously

Last week, ten Marin General Hospital nurses voiced concerns about patient care to the Marin Healthcare District board, which oversees the hospital. The nurses, who, according to the Marin IJ, have been struggling to be heard over the course of the past year, said they fear hospital administrators are paying too much attention to the financial bottom line and not directing enough resources toward patient care and safety. A petition signed by 90 MGH nurses demands that the hospital respond to their complaints.

Among the nurses' concerns are issues of being assigned more patients than are allowed by state law, being significantly understaffed, having inadequate training on new computer software, and continual issues with processing sterilized equipment and surgical instruments. As a result, they argued, patients are being held in the hallway sometimes for upwards of six hours before getting a room. They are also being moved more quickly out of wings that provide the most intensive monitoring and care. And their safety, the nurses say, is being severely compromised every time nurses have to deal with unsterile equipment.

At the same time as administrators reportedly refused to acknowledge these concerns, the hospital was apparently hyper-aware of issues that directly impacted profits. In early February, the IJ reports that a nursing administrator reprimanded dozens of nurses for missing hospital charges. I would imagine that it must have been extra frustrating for these nurses to see so much administrative energy being directed toward finances while so little was being devoted to addressing their concerns about patient care.

The nurses are the real eyes and ears of the healthcare system. They are in the trenches and they see exactly what is going on with the hospitals they are working at. As a San Francisco medical malpractice and personal injury lawyer, I have seen the real-life consequences of hospitals that allow their standard of care to slide, either due to economic priorities or weak leadership. It is impossible to know exactly when cutting corners will directly impact a patient, but rest assured it will happen. And when it does, people will be hurt and lives will be lost that might otherwise have been saved. It is a business for MGH and other hospitals and health care systems--it is your life and the lives of your family members on the line.

These nurses' concerns are not to be taken lightly. Marin General Hospital needs to figure out a way to address them before it's too late. It may take manpower, it may take some time, and of course it will take some financial resources.

All that said however it only takes a few minutes of neglect for a patient to lose consciousness, for a baby in utero to fail to receive adequate oxygenation or for another disaster in patient care to injure or kill a patient.

Perhaps the administration does need to better train nurses to not miss costs, and then they can direct the money saved toward hiring more local nurses to take some of the pressure off the current staff. Perhaps there are other solutions to problems at Marin General Hospital. Bottom line is, this situation needs an immediate fix or the problems will become worse.

My money is on the nurses to pinpoint the issues here. I support their quest for better patient care and better working conditions at Marin General Hospital.

Have you been to Marin General recently? Did you feel that you received adequate care? Please let us know in the comments section.

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