By George Bischalaney, President & CEO, Eden Medical Center
This past year was another busy year for our elected representatives, passing another bevy of bills that will impact hospitals and other health care providers. In every case, I have no doubt, each bill was written with some positive motive; to provide better access to health care services, to help control or reduce costs, to protect confidentiality or a patient’s right of choice, or in some cases mandating policies or practices that are costly to implement and monitor and may have a questionable cost benefit to patients.
But will more legislative remedies to the extremely complex and already cumbersome system of health services in California actually improve the patient care experience? One has to wonder.
In most service industries, the consumer helps direct change by withholding use of a service that doesn’t meet his/her needs. This is not as easily done when someone needs medical care. Yet the consumers, our patients, speak to us through direct communication and through their responses to the surveys we send. What we need to do is listen more attentively and respond more appropriately.
At Eden Medical Center we randomly send out surveys to patients who have been hospitalized, patients who use our mental health services, patients who have surgery and leave the same day, and patients who use the Emergency Department. We ask about every aspect of their experience, from the time they are registered through their discharge from the hospital. This includes physician and nursing interactions, quality of food and housekeeping, and the staff that drew blood or took an x-ray. Patients or family members are also invited to write comments, good or bad, and tell us anything else they think we should know about our services.
Hospitals are for the most part, stops of last resort for all. People come here already laden with apprehension, uncertainty and even a certain amount of fear. They have seemingly little or no control over what is about to happen to them or their loved ones. It is our job, our responsibility, to care for them as we would members of our own family.
If more legislation is needed to encourage us or force us to care for patients as we would our own family members, then we deserve what is given us. However, if we truly listen to our patients, our customers, and respond as a service industry that needs to be attentive to the needs of its customers, the industry would be vastly improved in terms of quality care and the patient’s experience. What more is really needed?
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Q & A with George Bischalaney, President & CEO, Eden Medical Center
We recently had an opportunity to talk with George Bischalaney, President and CEO of Eden Medical Center, about some questions that have been raised in the local community about the number of beds that will be available for patients in the new Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley. This is part of a series of Straight Talk with the CEO blog posts we plan to publish, that began with Mr. Bischalaney’s first post.
The questions from the community are in bold, with George Bischalaney’s responses below:
Why will the new Eden Hospital have fewer beds than the current hospital?
The current hospital was built in the early 1950s, more than 50 years ago. At that time, rooms housing more than one patient were the then current design. Since then, we’ve learned that it’s much more efficient to have private rooms for everyone. It’s better for patients, since they are not exposed to the illnesses of others, and it’s better for families, allowing more space and time with their loved ones, and better for hospital staff in caring for patients effectively.
The new hospital will have 130 private rooms, each designed in way that brings as much care to the bedside as possible. The hospital overall will be more patient-centric, and the patient rooms will reflect this philosophy in their design and in the future delivery of nursing care.
Will 130 beds be enough for our future needs?
We believe 130 beds are sufficient to care for patients as we envision hospital services in the near future. Concerns I have heard generally compare the current bed count to the proposed bed count in the new hospital. The fact is that there is not the significant change that most people perceive.
The current Eden Hospital building has 178 licensed beds. However, many of these beds are apportioned into specialty services. There are patient rooms, or beds, dedicated to obstetric patients, psychiatric services and three distinct critical care units.
The new hospital will continue to have a dedicated obstetrics service, but will not have beds dedicated to inpatient psychiatric services. There is a greater demand for outpatient service, which we also provide and will continue to provide in the future. We will dedicate one complete floor to critical care in the new hospital. This change will allow us to concentrate our critical care clinical providers more effectively and they will work more efficiently as a result. This will not only help reduce cost but will also improve the quality of care for our sickest patients.
We will have 90 general medical/surgical beds, all in private rooms in the new hospital, compared to 111 beds in the existing building, of which the vast majority are in two bed and four bed patient rooms. Multi-patient rooms are much less flexible, in that we cannot mix genders, patients with infections, nor do we want to put patients in end of life situations with other patients due to the greater needs of these patients and their families. None of these factors come into play with private rooms, making them much more efficiently used and reducing the overall need.
Today, patients spend less time in the hospital than they did even a few years ago. Patients now have surgery and go home the same day. Patients have babies and go home in two days. In both these examples, it was not unusual for patients to spend five or more days in the hospital in the past. Our single patient rooms will be utilized much more efficiently and therefore, fewer are needed.
What if there is a natural disaster—will you be able to take care of the community?
Any natural disaster could overwhelm our ability to meet the community needs. This is true of any public service, be it fire, police or hospitals. However, we feel that we are still positioned to respond appropriately if needed. One reason we believe this is the addition of something entirely new to our community, a 34 bed Universal Care Unit. While these are not licensed hospital beds, and therefore, are not included in the count of 130 beds, they are single patient accommodations that can be used to care for injured patients in a disaster situation. For every day use, they are meant to care for patients who stay less than 24 hours in the hospital, or who need a period of observation following treatment in the Emergency or Trauma Services. Therefore in a disaster response, we would have 174 patient stations available, in addition to the standard capacity in the Emergency and Trauma Services.
But wouldn’t it be better to have more than we need, knowing this area is overdue for a major earthquake along the Hayward Fault line?
No, that would be wasteful. Consider this—it will cost $2.5 million in total project costs for each new bed built in the new hospital. We also know that an unused bed, or room, has ongoing costs in maintenance and upkeep. It is estimated by industry experts that unused beds in hospitals have an average annual cost of $322,000. This is expensive space to have, “just in case.” Let’s not forget that ultimately, it is you and I who pay for this. Whether it’s through direct charges from the hospital when we use it, or in health insurance premiums, the costs are passed through to the buyers of health care services. We have an obligation to the community to build what the community needs, but in an efficient and cost effective manner for today and tomorrow. Remember, you don’t build a church just for Easter Sunday.
Additional questions and comments are welcome, in line with our comment policy. We will make every effort to respond within a few days.