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Hospital mismanagement continues

by Carol Mitch
| March 7, 2021 1:00 AM

As a Registered Nurse who has served the patients of Kalispell Regional Hospital for the last 17 years, I am alarmed by the sharp decline in morale, standards of care, and decency that have resulted from policies begun under the previous failed administration and continue under the current one. Kalispell Regional Hospital (Logan Health), once held in high regard by the community and served with pride by health care workers, is being mismanaged into the ground.

Over the last few years, lawsuits stemming from illegal payments to physicians constituting Medicare fraud to cyber breaches leaking personal information of patients have cost our nonprofit community hospital nearly $30 million.

Additionally, in January of 2019, a restructuring plan was implemented that resulted in the loss of 20% of our most veteran nursing staff in the first four months following the changes. Since then, the chief nursing officer responsible for the restructuring was “let go” for the disastrous consequences that ensued. Even so, the restructuring plan was never reversed and hospital staff continue to bleed out at an alarming rate. These problems precede the COVID-19 pandemic by more than a year, and continue today even when COVID-19 patients in the hospital number only in the single digits.

Newly graduated, inexperienced nurses are being given positions in the ER, ICU and labor and delivery. Before the restructuring, this would have been unthinkable. Prior to the widespread loss of our most senior staff, it was deemed necessary for safe and competent care that a nurse gain at least two years of floor and/or cardiac experience before working in these critical care areas. The fact that this is now the norm is as desperate as it is dangerous.

Kalispell Regional used to set the standard for excellent health care. It is a sad day for the people of the Flathead that the hospital administration is now satisfied only to “meet national standards,” which is to say, “the bare minimal requirement.”

Our highly compensated CEO was made acutely aware of the problems that resulted from eliminating the charge nurse position months before the nurses voted overwhelmingly to unionize. (A charge nurse is typically an experienced nurse who is available on every unit, every shift, who not only oversees appropriate patient assignments, but is also available as a resource to newer nurses and provides an extra set of hands to assist where necessary, answers call lights, and allows floor nurses to take much deserved breaks, etc.) In that time he failed to reverse those disastrous policies, and the community and staff are still suffering.

The nurses unionized in order that we may have a voice at the table to advocate for a hospital where patients and the staff who serve them are the top priority. Now we have been at the bargaining table for 18 months while the hospital continues to stubbornly drag its feet on agreeing to safe staffing ratios and competitive wages.

Meanwhile, the nursing exodus continues. COVID-19 is not to blame. People stay where they feel valued.

Carol Mitch is a Registered Nurse at Kalispell Regional Healthcare (Logan Health). She lives in Kalispell.