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Understaffing Reports at University of Louisville Hospital Look Grim

Published on Jul 14, 2016 at 5:23 pm in Medical Malpractice.

Just a few days ago, we reported about a dangerous situation that has been slowly unfolding at University of Louisville Hospital since 2013. Severe nursing layoffs and other employee cuts caused the hospital to become understaffed to high levels which forced overnight E.R. patients, for example, to not be seen until 9 AM the following day. Entire sections of the hospital were even forced to be closed off due to the lack of nurses.

In light of the above examples as well as multiple press interviews and staff reports, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services investigated the current state of the hospital in order to determine if patient care was being compromised. The investigation prompted a 30-page report which was issued July 11th and reported on by Courier-Journal. It paints an image of a facility where nurses are indeed overloaded to the extreme and overworked.

In the partial report which KentuckyOne, the company that currently owns the hospital, chose to publicly release, multiple nurses, employees, and patients told stories of patients who were placed at risk for serious injury due to having to wait too long for medication or treatment. Roughly 3 out of 24 deficiencies in care were documented. Other hospital issues such as equipment stocking issues were documented, forcing patients who needed emergency care to wait unnecessarily.

Lisa Shannon, chief operating officer of KentuckyOne, claims that the hospital is safe and that the company has already made “tremendous improvements” after the state’s report was issued. Shannon attributed the current problems at the hospital to the nationwide nursing shortage as well as the “unintended consequences” of the major staff reductions which took place in 2013 after the company took over hospital management.

The original staff layoffs occurred as a result of KentuckyOne attempting to make up for University of Louisville Hospital’s debt at the time. 500 more employees were laid off in 2014. After that, many additional experienced nurses left the hospital due to the resulting “culture of fear” that occurred after so many cuts. The hospital’s president at the time, Ken Marshall, revealed this information after he was forced to resign for undisclosed reasons just last month.

According to a recent briefing issued by Chief Nursing Officer Shari Kretzschmer, the hospital hired 55 nurses during May and June 2016 in an attempt to make up for the current shortage. Despite the 55 hires, however, 70 nursing openings still exist. University of Louisville Hospital has been utilizing traveling nurses to the best of their capabilities to make up for the shortage, but traveling nurses who may be unfamiliar with hospital procedure aren’t ideal in emergency situations.

What’s Next for University of Louisville Hospital?

Until the full report is disclosed by the state of Kentucky, it’s difficult to say what, if any, changes will occur. KentuckyOne seems determined to try and improve the hospital, but those improvements seem to be coming quite slowly. Without enough nurses, improvements will continue to come at a snail’s pace. As Mark P. Pfiefer, practicing internist, said in an interview with Courier-Journal, “We are seeing an improvement but it is not quick enough for some of our patients.”

If improvements aren’t happening quick enough for some patients, then the lives of those patients might inevitably become placed at risk. That isn’t—and shouldn’t be—acceptable. Unless rapid improvements are made—and not at a snail’s pace—the situation at University of Louisville Hospital may begin to look quite grim indeed for patient care.

Until corporations who own major hospitals like University of Louisville Hospital realize that patient care must be the first priority of a hospital and not company debt or budget cuts, patient care will continue to suffer. If you or anyone you know has suffered unnecessarily due to hospital staff members who are negligent or overworked due to understaffing, you should know that legal options are available.

Contact Louisville, KY personal injury lawyer Tad Thomas of Thomas Law Offices to find out about those options. Our staff members can provide a free case evaluation and tell you if you have a possible lawsuit on your hands. Medical malpractice lawsuits can be incredibly complicated, but they send a message that translates to direct action. With the right attorney on your side, that message can be widely distributed and help force corporations to prioritize the health and safety of patients.