RGH diverts patients due to lack of nurses

Mike Linn

Some patients seeking admission to the Roosevelt General Hospital last weekend were diverted to Clovis due to a staffing shortage of nurses.
It was the first time RGH officials diverted patients since the hospital’s inception almost two years ago, according to RGH Administrator James D’Agostino.
“We don’t ever want to admit a patient who we can’t take care of,” D’Agostino said. “We’re not going to do it. I’d rather divert and react on the side of cautiousness and good patient care.”
The problem arose after two nurses scheduled to work over the weekend called in sick; a few other nurses were on vacation and were unable to fill in, D’Agostino said.
D’Agostino said “less than a handful” of patients were diverted.
State law does not allow the patient/nurse ratio to exceed eight to one, but officials at RGH said they try to keep the proportion at four to one. At Plains Regional Medical Center in Clovis, officials try to retain a rate of six to one.
Hospital officials at PRMC said they admitted one patient diverted from RGH over the weekend.
“At times when hospitals in our area can’t handle patients for whatever reason we take them, but we will do that on occasion as well,” PRMC administrative secretary Rhonda Murdock said. “We just all try to help each other.”
Patients seeking admission to the Clovis hospital were diverted on two occasions in 2002, according to Joan Martin, the PRMC director of patient care services.
In regard to nursing shortages, Martin said there are none at PRMC but added that many area hospitals are having trouble filling nursing positions.
In a bind, agencies are available in every state to provide nurses on a need-only basis to hospitals. The nurses are typically hired on time-limited contracts, Martin said.
“We have not had that problem, and have not had to utilize agency nursing and I feel very fortunate for that,” Martin said. “Several other hospitals, on the other hand, have had to.”