United Medical Center highlights improvement efforts following nurses union's 'no confidence' vote

Last month, the District of Columbia Nurses Association voted "no confidence" in UMC leadership, particularly pointing to medical center CEO Luis Hernandez, an employee of consulting firm Veritas of Washington, which is contracted to manage UMC operations; and Maribel Torres, MSM, RN-BC, UMC executive vice president of patient care service and CNO.

Now, UMC is responding the "no confidence" vote, which centered around what the union deemed as unsafe nurse staffing, among other issues.

In an emailed statement to Becker's Hospital Review, the medical center said it "takes quality patient care seriously," and that "a comprehensive staffing plan for nurse-patient ratio has been in place and is based on national standards."

"Earlier this year, as a result of an increase in patient census, the plan was modified to identify flexible staffing levels based on specific clinical variables rather than a mandated nurse-to-patient ratio," UMC added.

The medical center also addressed claims of inadequate equipment, citing a number of enhancements and improvements it has made. These include "purchase of new patient beds; installation of a new call bell system and overhead paging system; purchase of 15 new mobile computers and additional desktop computers at nursing stations for nursing documentation; additional heart, EKG and blood pressure monitors; new ventilators; and new lifting equipment for safe transfer of patients."

"In addition, we have installed additional cameras and emergency call boxes in the parking lot and patient care areas to enhance safety for staff. We have also remodeled UMC's 5th and 8th floors with improved nursing environments and refurbished several new surgical operating rooms," UMC said. "In fact, these upgrades have represented a significant improvement in patient and staff safety and comfort across the hospital."

Additionally, UMC addressed claims of inadequate nurse training, saying it offers various "live" and online classes for nurses, along with tuition reimbursement, and coverage for costs related to all nursing certifications, CPR and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support classes.

The "no confidence" vote took place amid quality and safety issues at UMC. District regulators imposed a 90-day obstetrics ward shutdown at the medical center in August. At the time, UMC cited three separate cases involving deficiencies in screening, clinical assessment and delivery protocols as reasoning behind the district's decision.

After receiving notification from the District Department of Health, UMC said it "took immediate steps to comply with the order to temporarily close the obstetrics unit."

Now, the medical center said it is "analyzing and reviewing the steps necessary to address these issues with the goal of submitting a plan to DOH on the future of obstetrics at UMC."

As far as Mr. Hernandez and Ms. Torres specifically, UMC supported the leaders.

The leaders "have brought measurable improvements to UMC while also operating within a proscribed budget structure established by the District," the medical center said.

"UMC has engaged in an extensive overhaul and restructuring of our facilities, and upgrades in staffing, policies and practices to improve service delivery and patient outcomes. When Veritas first began its work, it did so in a climate of years of funding challenges. Since that time, and with the leadership and involvement of both Mr. Hernandez and Ms. Torres, we have made great strides in making significant and much needed improvements whole also bringing the hospital to financial stability."


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