NEW YORK (VINnews) — Mount Sinai Hospital is considered one of the best hospitals in the country — but its emergency department is allegedly a “war zone” and a danger to the very patients it is trying to save, according to a report by the New York Post.
Nurses at the hospital recalled patients going into cardiac arrest without anyone noticing, others not being admitted to the critical care area because it was too full and staffers losing track of their patients. The nurses claimed that obsession with profits and staff shortages had led to a deterioration in medical care at the emergency department.
“You feel helpless because there’s nothing you can do,” said Diamond Jordan, a former Mount Sinai registered nurse who quit in September.
Dr. Eric Barton, former head of emergency departments for the Mount Sinai hospital network, said he quit in July 2018 after less than a year at the helm because “I had to follow my moral compass and leave and decide this is not an organization that cares for patients.”
A report obtained by The Post shows Mount Sinai Hospital knew its emergency department had issues at least three and a half years ago, when it assembled three out-of-state medical experts to review it. The three spent a day in the department on April 15, 2016, and were horrified by what they saw, writing in an internal report to the hospital that the conditions were “among the worst we have ever seen.’’
The report warned that staffing ratios, infection control, safety, patient boarding and conditions in the emergency department were “unacceptable in a first-class medical center” and implored Mount Sinai to rebuild the department.
“It is our opinion that the ED at Mount Sinai is inevitably going to have one or more incidents related to patient safety, quality, or infection control that will draw substantial attention from the media, public, legal system or regulators, despite the extraordinary efforts of professional staff,” the report said.
But three years on, it appears little has changed, with Barton, Jordan and five other current or former nurses claiming Mount Sinai has failed to address crucial issues.
“Every day I go to work, I feel like I am going to a war zone,” said one nurse who was too nervous to be identified. Jordan, 26, said that on her worst days at work, she was assigned up to 18 patients. The recommended number is five or six. She said she averaged at least nine on a normal day.
A Mount Sinai spokeswoman denied that the hospital’s nurses had been given patient workloads as high as Jordan claims hers was, saying it was typically less than eight.
But one employee said the hospital does not count patients already admitted who emergency-department nurses continue to take care of in addition to the very sick patients still being wheeled in.
Barton, claimed that when he was hired as the Mount Sinai hospital-system chair of its Departments of Emergency Medicine in July 2017 the nurse-to-patient ratio was often as high as one to 14.
“I refused to work clinically in that ED because it felt too unsafe in terms of nurse-to-patient staffing ratios and what I saw in terms of the delay of care and getting patients upstairs,” Barton said.
The spokeswoman for the hospital responded that staffers did raise concerns about workloads but that higher-ups listened, adding 20 nursing positions this year in addition to 42 new staffers since 2016. She added that the hospital had hired a second nurse manager and four assistant nurse managers in order to support front-line providers.
She denied the workers’ other allegations, including that patients went into cardiac arrest unnoticed or were lost track of, calling them “simply not true.”
“We’re constantly phasing in best practices and working to improve each day and each year,” the spokeswoman said.
Mount Sinai was ranked 14th in US News’ annual Best Hospitals list this year — but the index only rates sites based on their specialty departments and does not consider emergency rooms. Mount Sinai workers as well as patients complained that these facilities were well below standard.
The hospital is rated a “poor performer” based on its patient-satisfaction scores on the state Department of Health website. Patients in the crowded emergency department are sometimes left on stretchers in the corridor waiting up to two days for a bed to be freed up.
Mount Sinai has initiated a system whereby patients at the emergency rooms do not stay in a waiting room but enter directly into the emergency rooms regardless of their condition. This system was implemented after a number of patients died in hospital waiting rooms after long waits for treatment. Yet ER staff insisted that the current system causes overload and patients with really dangerous conditions are being neglected.
A Mount Sinai nurse told The Post: “I’ve had several situations, including a patient whose hemoglobin was 3, which means they [virtually] had no blood pumping through their veins.”
“But because it was so busy and because of delays in the lab because they had a lot of blood work, they did not discover it until several hours later, and that can be very dangerous.”
The patient survived, she said.
A nurse who quit in December said, “I’m embarrassed that this is the care we’re giving patients, especially sick ones.”
“I went in there being very optimistic and very caring and wanting to help and loving my career, to leaving there hating the business of being a nurse.’’