Palomar Surgeon Expresses Optimism After Meeting With Administrators About Staffing Problems
An orthopedic surgeon who earlier this month publicly stated that Palomar Medical Center should hire more operating-room staff said on Wednesday following a meeting with hospital administrators that he was hopeful that the situation would be addressed, the North County Times reports (Moss, North County Times, 2/24).
Palomar surgeon Paul Milling on Feb. 7 presented the Palomar Pomerado Health district board with a petition signed by about 150 doctors and hospital employees and previously had written a letter to the board stating that the high number of emergency procedures, including caesarean sections, at the hospital delay previously scheduled surgeries to late evening or early morning, when they must be performed by "tired doctors and staff."
According to several hospital officials, most facilities offering labor and delivery services have a dedicated obstetrical team and anesthesiologist on duty at all times. Palomar, which is the only county hospital that does not have its own designated obstetrics staff, has a separate obstetrical anesthesiologist on duty from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Milling stated in his letter that if the facility does not increase its staffing, "it is only a matter of time when one of these avoidable late-night and early-morning cases will turn into another nationally known, tragic surgical embarrassment for (the hospital)," such as an incident in 2000 when a Palomar surgeon operating late left a metal device in the stomach of a patient. Milling has also noted that Pomerado Hospital runs a round-the-clock obstetrics department although the facility is smaller and makes less money than Palomar, its sister hospital (California Healthline, 2/9).
Tuesday's meeting "produced no plan to increase the operating room's staffing level," but Milling indicated in a statement that he was optimistic about the situation given Palomar Pomerado Health President and CEO Michael Covert's interest in the situation, the Times reports. The meeting included other administrative officials, as well as the heads of Palomar's emergency and trauma unit and obstetrics department.
According to Milling's statement, "The bureaucratic inertia is gone. The operating room committee ... and the administration now have the same vision, (and) they will be working together to improve patient care in the operating room and obstetrical delivery area." Milling said in the statement that the facility's problems are not unique but rather "a symptom of a broken health care delivery system."
Gerald Bracht, chief administrative officer for Palomar, said the meeting was "very productive, the issues (raised) have been taken up by the operating room committee, and they're currently working on them as we speak." Bracht added, "So again, we're very encouraged."
Milling noted the possible strategies to address the issue discussed in the meeting including freeing up a operating room in Palomar's birth center that is now used for storage. "(Covert) told the staff to work on these issues -- he used the word 'urgent' and said, 'Let's get together in a month," Milling said, adding, "If he's asking for answers to those questions, that's a really good sign. So I'm going to sit back and wait and see what happens" (North County Times, 2/24).