D.C. Nurses Gives United Medical Center a Thumbs Down

by: James Wright Special to the AFRO jwright@afro.com
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The District of Columbia Nurses Association  (DCNA) chapter at the United Medical Center (UMC) voted “no confidence” in the leadership of the hospital on Sept. 28.

UMC Chief Executive Officer Luis Hernandez and Executive Vice President of Patient Care Service & Chief Nursing Officer Maribel Torres, who were appointed to their positions in 2016 and 2013, respectively, apparently have lost the support of the hospital’s nursing corps through the DCNA. The association represents over 200 nurses at UMC.

The vote was among the latest troubles that UMC had endured over the decades, including a high turnover of owners and managers, dealing with a population that often has trouble paying its medical bills and accreditation problems. In August, it was revealed that the obstetrics and maternity units were temporarily closed for deficiencies in operations.

In a statement released by the DCNA, there were serious concerns about “dangerous” nurse-patient ratios, the lack of proper equipment in the units and inadequate training for the nurses. DCNA said that it has met with Torres “numerous times” and their concerns were ignored and Hernandez also ignored their points of contention.

DCNA has communicated their concerns with D.C. Council member Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) in his capacity as chairman of the Committee on Health and health officials of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration. The leaders of DCNA are clear that Hernandez and Torres “should be asked to resign from their positions or face immediate termination.”

Gray said the no-confidence vote “adds serious questions about the quality of turnaround efforts at the UMC” and blames the present owners.

“I have spoken about Veritas before,” Gray, who served as mayor from 2011-2015, said. “The Bowser administration hired that contractor to replace Huron Healthcare Consulting, UMC’s former operator that I brought on to run the hospital while I was mayor. To me, the no-confidence vote simply adds one more item to a laundry list of things that raise questions about the quality of what’s being done there.”

In response to the no-confidence vote, the AFRO obtained a statement from management.

“When Veritas first began its work, it did so in a climate of years of funding challenges,” the statement said. “Since that time, and with the leadership and involvement of both Mr. Hernandez and Ms. Torres, we have made great strides in making significant and much needed improvements while also bringing the hospital to financial stability.”

The management refuted the DCNA’s point about bad nurse-patient ratios, saying it is based on national standards.

“Earlier this year, as a result of an increase in patient census, the plan was modified to identify flexible staffing levels based on specific clinical variables rather than a mandates nurse-to-patient ratio,” the statement said.

The statement noted equipment upgrades, the re-modeling of UMC’s floors and continuing education opportunities for nurses and how it is working with the District’s Department of Health to deal with the obstetrics and maternity issues.

“UMC remains dedicated to the health and well-being of individuals and communities entrusted in our care and we stand firm in our commitment to provide quality health care services for Ward 7 and Ward 8 residents,” the statement said.

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