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Olean General Hospital nurses frustrated by staffing shortage

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Posted at 4:53 PM, Jun 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-08 18:57:35-04

OLEAN, N.Y. (WKBW) — There isn’t much Mary Bishop doesn’t miss about her dad.

“It was just his birthday on Friday. Just calling him, talking to him, just everything,” she explained.

Mary’s dad, Charles died at Olean General Hospital in February at the age of 76. He had been admitted after testing positive for COVID-19. “I seriously think it was the shortage of nurses that patients were not able to get the proper care,” she said. “His room was filthy, he was filthy, his mouth was full of sores,” said Bishop.

Bishop believes her dad would have recovered had he received better care. “This is a man that walked five miles a day before he got COVID.”

Some Olean General Hospital nurses said they are also frustrated with staffing levels at the facility. They rallied outside of the hospital Tuesday asking administrators to address what they say is a nursing shortage at the hospital.

Kristine Powell has been an Emergency Department nurse at the hospital for 22 years. “Because of my 12,16, 18 patients, I can’t get to them in a timely manner, and it breaks my heart.”

Trisha Sebastian works in the Intensive Care Unit. “At points, we’ve had to decide which of our critical care patients are more sick. Who deserves the care the most?” she asked.

Hospital CEO Jeff Zewe released the following statement:

"We know our nurses have stepped up, particularly over the past year to meet the challenge of patient care during the pandemic. They are true heroes. We are in full agreement with the union that we need more nurses.

From an organizational perspective we know there is a nationwide shortage of nurses, which became magnified in 2020. Nursing is our number one organizational priority. It’s game, set match for the patients. Nurses are the eyes and ears for the physician and the advocates for the patients and we’ve got to get more nurses.

We are experiencing a census increase as an after-effect of COVID-19. Over the course of the pandemic people have put off getting medical attention. Now that delay is resulting in sicker patients, longer lengths of stay and stress on staffing, and pressing the need for nurses.

Upper Allegheny Health System has been pushing nurse recruitment continually. It has our highest level of attention. Like many health care systems, Upper Allegheny Health System has lost nurses during the pandemic due to retirements and nurses departing to accept traveling nurse positions elsewhere.

UAHS has taken the following steps in an effort to attract experienced nurses: double sign-on and referral bonuses for RNs and brought in 25 full time agency nurses to help support short-term staffing needs. UAHS has made progress in bringing on new nurses, recently hiring 22 graduate nurses, 10 in May and 12 starting June 21. Because of COVID restrictions the nurses didn’t have a typical final year rotation so it will take additional time to orient them.

We are heading in the right direction. It takes four months before they are ready to care for patients on their own. We know nurses are taking care of more patients than we would like, but it’s not probable to transfer patients to other hospitals because they are all facing the same issue.

We have worked closely with the bargaining unit that represents OGH nurses.. No question we need experienced nurses, just like all hospitals and there are not enough in practice or in school to fill the need.

The hospital expects the nurse staffing issue to ease in the coming months as nurses finish orientation and the organization continues to aggressively recruit experienced nurses from other organizations.

While we understand the staff issue we also know that our patient safety metrics indicate that patients are safe. Harm events including falls, hospital acquired infections and medication errors remain very low through the first five months of this year through the hard work of our staff.

We will continue to aggressively work to recruit nurses to OGH and invite the union to help us in that effort."

Privacy laws prohibit the hospital from discussing Mary Bishop’s father’s case. Bishop said she’s sharing her family’s story in the hopes of helping others.

“I just don’t want this to happen to another family. It’s devastating.”