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In response to inspection, Meadowlands hospital launches plan to remedy deficiencies

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Meadowlands Hospital and Medical Center representatives said Wednesday they are addressing every point raised by a Department of Health inspection, including publicly posting nursing staff levels, tightening up sterilization and pre-admission procedures, and improving pediatric services to low-income families.

The results of the inspection, which were made public Tuesday night, identified a number of deficiencies in operations at the Secaucus hospital.

Health Department spokeswoman Donna Leusner said Meadowlands is in compliance with the department's requirements for nursing staff levels. "What they were cited for was not devising a plan to assess the number of nurses needed, and failing to publicly post how many nurses are on duty," she said.

Lynn McVey, vice president of operations, said the hospital has written an action plan to address the inspections, with staffers "drilling down on every single thing" identified by the state.

Jeanne Otersen, spokeswoman for the Health Professionals and Allied Employees, a union representing nurses and technicians at the hospital, said several nurses met with the Health Department in June, and in July, the department inspected the hospital.

Otersen said the state's inspection confirms the union's opinion that Meadowlands did not have a system for establishing appropriate nursing levels that looks at "how sick (are the patients), and how much nursing care do they need." The union is in arbitration with the hospital management over worker layoffs and terminations.

Felicia Karsos, chief nursing officer, took issue with the union's view of the nurse staffing issue.

"It is not that we did not have a plan. We do have a methodology for deciding on staffing. But we were not using the exact wording the DOH wants," she said. "We have a process in place, but the written process was not as detailed as it needs to be."

She said sterilization deficiencies cited by the DOH issues were corrected the "day the inspection took place, and we have been monitoring it daily since," and the hospital has an agreement with a primary care physician group to provide care to pediatric patients.

"The intent is very simple. If someone comes in and doesn't have insurance and needs follow up, we send them to a primary care physician," who will not turn away such patients, she said.

Dr. Richard Lipsky, chairman of the hospital's board of trustees, is a principal of the company that acquired Meadowlands last December. He estimated about 30 employees have been let go, but that overall staffing at the hospital is up from about 600 to 720.

Otersen said in January, her union represented between 450 and 460 employees at Meadowlands, and now has about 400 members there. She said about 60 people were let go through terminations or layoffs, "most of which we are in arbitration over."

Lipsky said $12 million has been invested in IT to make Meadowlands paperless, and that has led to staffing changes. New technology, "requires a lot of new skills, and nurses and doctors need to be taught those new skills. The hospitals used to have clerks whose job was to take paper from one place to another. That is an outdated function: instead of clerks, we hired IT specialists, who are on every floor training nurses and doctors to help them use the new technology."

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