Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Regional May Soon Be Unsafe, Harmon Learns Ailing Hospital in City Is Losing Staff Needed for Acute Care, Board Advises Mayor-Elect

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Regional May Soon Be Unsafe, Harmon Learns Ailing Hospital in City Is Losing Staff Needed for Acute Care, Board Advises Mayor-Elect

Article excerpt

Mayor-elect Clarence Harmon was told Monday that staff departures soon may render St. Louis Regional Medical Center unsafe for patients with life-threatening conditions.

Harmon met Monday night behind closed doors at the hospital with members of its board of directors. After the meeting, he was asked whether he was optimistic about the hospital staying open.

"I don't know what the fate of this institution will be," he said. Neither Harmon nor board members would discuss what transpired during th e 80-minute meeting. But hospital officials gave Harmon memos that strongly suggest the end is near, even if the new mayor can come up with millions of dollars in short-term financing. "There is a serious concern that before we run out of money, it may be truly unsafe to continue to attempt acute care in the facility due to inadequate staffing," Dr. David B. Clifford, the president of Regional's medical executive committee, says in a memo to the board. Another memo, by the vice president for patient care, warns that the hospital is using many free-lance "agency" nurses. Those nurses may be well-trained, but there is a decreased ability to respond in emergencies, says Deborah Pasch-Mayer, the vice president. "There are errors being made by long-term, qualified staff," her memo says. She adds, "Many of the incidents are potentially life-threatening." Harmon has enlisted the aid of Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon. Last week, Nixon sought a temporary restraining order to block Regional's board from closing the hospital before money can be found to keep it open. Regional is the only hospital in north St. Louis. It was opened in 1985 to provide care for patients too poor to go to other hospitals. A hearing in Nixon's suit resumes today in St. Louis Circuit Court. On Monday, Regional's board sent Harmon a letter expressing disappointment that he acted without first contacting the board. Robert L. Salter, the acting board chairman, pledged to work with Harmon, who takes office April 15. …

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