Kevin Newkirk alleges that his recent stay at Harlem Hospital was less than stellar when he went in for surgery on an abscess. He claims that the public hospital, which just added a new state-of-the-art wing, was low on supplies and staff.
Staying at the hospital for about two days, Newkirk said that after his surgery in the ward, the nursing staff was short-handed and things he and other patients needed were not tended to.
“My IV machine kept running out, and the nurses would not come until two hours later,” he said. “It was horrible service and the nurses said they were short on staff.”
Newkirk also reported horrible bathroom conditions, including outside guests coming in to use his restroom. He also observed patients in painful conditions, such as one person who came to the hospital with a gunshot wound who repeatedly asked workers for pain medication. He eventually got the medication after the man’s wife stepped in.
“It was like IV machines were going off everywhere and it would be an hour before a nurse would come and shut them off,” Newkirk said.
A lack of supplies was something Newkirk also observed. In one instance, he said there were no paper towels in the dispenser a nurse was reaching for. The nurse claimed housekeeping had not replaced them.
“I think that it was a lack of care for the patients,” Newkirk said. “From what I could see, the ward was overcrowded.”
Newkirk’s experience at Harlem Hospital is becoming an all-too-familiar one for the thousands of people in the city and state who use public hospitals. New York ranks No. 3 when it comes to a shortage of nurses. State funding for nursing degree programs continue to be a problem.
Over the last 20 years, salaries for nurses has gone up in the state, along with more benefits offered, making it hard to keep up with the demand. Estimated statistics show there is a need for over 196,000 RNs, 55,000 LPNs and over 112,000 CNAs.
“I’ve heard horror stories from every corner of our state. We’re being forced to take on too many patients at once. It’s a danger to our patients and our practice,” said Jill Furillo, executive director of the New York State Nurses Association. “Our duty as patient advocates goes beyond the bedside–it includes our duty to advocate for legislation that will help improve our patients’ outcomes.”
On a local level, Furillo also blamed Mayor Michael Bloomberg for mismanaging city funds. She said the mayor has failed to invest in adequate staffing at HHC hospitals, threatening the future of the public hospital system.
HHC nor Harlem Hospital responded to the allegations at press time.