A trio of South Bay lawmakers took executives from Good Samaritan Hospital and its parent company to task last week in a letter decrying staffing and safety issues at the San Jose hospital.
The letter calls out the hospital for dangerously low staffing levels across multiple departments despite HCA Healthcare reporting profits of $3.7 billion last year.
“These unsafe management practices appear to be focused on staffing to meet the hospital’s financial goals rather than serve patients’ needs,” the later states.
The letter, signed by State Senator Dave Cortese, Assemblyman Ash Kalra, and Assemblyman Alex Lee, is addressed to Good Samaritan Hospital Chief Operating Officer Gary Purushotham and HCA Healthcare CEO Samuel Hazen.
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Good Samaritan nurses have been protesting staffing levels at the hospital since the beginning of the pandemic, organizing walkouts and press events, and the letter amplifies many of their concerns.
“Safe staffing has been a persistent problem throughout the pandemic at Good Samaritan Hospital,” the letter states. “The intensive care unit, where the most severely ill patients are placed, has been frequently out of compliance with limits set by state law on the number of patients that can be assigned to a nurse due to management’s failure to properly staff.”
The lawmakers also take aim at “dangerous staffing and hostile management practices” in the hospitals labor & delivery, antepartum, and neonatal intensive care unit.
Cortese said the letter comes after months of back-and-forth discussions with the hospital.
“This has really just been an ongoing concern,” Cortese said. “There seems to be some level of tone deafness, some level of lack of concern and compassion.”
Cortese was also critical of HCA’s recent decision to close the maternity ward at Regional Medical Center, another San Jose hospital owned by the company. He said it could leave vulnerable patients living in the East side of San Jose with few options.
“When they can’t deliver essential services like maternity services at a major hospital like Regional, you have to wonder what’s going on with their management.”
Good Samaritan Hospital didn’t directly respond to our request for comment, but an HCA spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the company has offered to meet with the concerned lawmakers.
“We have offered to meet with the legislators to discuss these issues and reiterate our commitment to serving our community,” HCA spokesperson Janine De la Vega said in the statement. “Caring for our San Jose community is what drives us every day and is at the heart and soul of our mission: Above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of human life.”
In the statement, de La Vega said the company self-reported “some instances” of staffing issues this spring, but said they were corrected quickly and were driven by a national nurse staffing shortage. She said the company is now offering financial and training incentives to attract more nurses.
A review of hospital inspection records by NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit found staffing issues at Good Samaritan predate the pandemic.
Inspectors from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) wrote up Good Samaritan for being out of compliance with mandatory nurse-to-patient staffing ratios five separate times between August 2018 and September 2019.
“A review of staffing records for the week of 8/11/19 to 8/17/19 indicated mandatory staffing ratios were not met on 5 of 7 days (8/11, 8/12, 8/13, 814, and 8/16),” one such report from September 2019 states.
CDPH records also show Good Samaritan has had more than double the number of complaints over the past three years compared to the statewide average for similarly sized hospitals.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gives the hospital an overall score of two stars out of five.
Staffing issues aren’t the only source of bad publicity for the hospital of late.
Santa Clara County regulators suspended the hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine supply earlier this year after a controversial decision to allow teachers and staff from a nearby school district to get their shots before they were eligible under county guidelines.
Former Good Samaritan CEO Joe DeSchryver resigned from the hospital in March, more than a month after the scandal first broke.
DeScrhyver did not respond to NBC Bay Area’s request for comment but said in an email to staff that he was leaving to pursue “career advancement opportunities.”
Check back soon for another Investigative Unit story on Good Samaritan Hospital