Already stretched thin administratively and financially, the Gov. Juan Luis Hospital has become even more fragile due to understaffing in the emergency room and malfunctioning equipment in the V.I. Cardiac Center, hospital administrators reported Wednesday.
Rumors spread Wednesday that the emergency department was closed because of the lack of physicians. A visit to the ER revealed a handful of patients in the waiting room and at least one medical staff person was seen moving from the treatment room to the waiting area.
“It’s not true,” said ER receptionist Sharmina Henderson. “I’ve been here since morning. I’ve been here all day.”
JFL Public Information Officer Erica Parsons backed up Henderson but admitted there is a staff shortage. There is usually one doctor on duty around the clock in the ER with overlap by other physicians or physician’s assistants on staggered schedules, she said.
“Today we have coverage in the ER and any stories about the ER being shut down are totally false,” Parsons said Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the department was short a physician and Dr. Carmine Hendricks of the Frederiksted Health Care and a former JFL employee filled in, according to Parsons.
In a press release Wednesday night, Richard Evangelista, JFL’s acting chief executive officer, said Williams has agreed to work in the department as needed.
“Due to unforeseen circumstances, our coverage is lower than normal but we are in the process of recruiting more physicians to the ED. In the interim, the medical staff at JFL have stepped in to bridge the gap,” Evangelista said.
In another press release, Sen. Kenneth Gittens said Wednesday he met with physicians and other hospital staff who said there have been at least two resignations in the ER in the last few days because of long hours leading to overtiredness and noncompetitive salaries.
Parsons said Wednesday evening she has “no information about any resignations.”
Evangelista also addressed operations at the Cardiac Center and said the catheterization lab’s fluoroscopy machine is temporarily out of service “due to error messages on the machine that needed to be addressed.”
Parts for the machine that is used for cardiac catheterization, pacemaker placement and de-clotting of arteriovenous grafts and fistulas have been ordered, according to Evangelista.
If a patient arrives at the hospital with heart attack symptoms, he or she “will be transferred to the nearest available facility,” Evangelista said in the release. No other information was provided, such as where the nearest facility is.
Plagued with financial and personnel issues, JFL came close to losing certification by the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid in 2014 and the St. Croix hospital has owed millions of dollars to vendors and the V.I. Water and Power Authority for many months.
Adding stress to the system, top management has been reduced to Evangelista and Tim Lessing, chief financial officer, in the last two months. Due to resignations and firings, the positions of CEO, chief operating officer, medical director, chief nursing officer and human resources director are either unfilled or staffed with temporary/acting personnel.