Dr. George M. Abraham: Amid any stress, quality care remains a constant at St. VincentFeb 25, 2021
When I started as an attending physician at St. Vincent Hospital 22 years ago it was winding down decades of operations at its old facility on Vernon Hill and planning a move to the downtown facility it occupies today.
The move from the hill in 2000 was a time of upheaval as patients were transferred from familiar surroundings and the staff had to quickly get used to a new building. Complicating matters was a strike by nurses that ultimately lasted 49 days. It was a stressful time for everybody, but we all worked to care for patients every step of the way.
The longtime mission of the hospital was clear: providing quality care for patients, regardless of the circumstances or events – whether a move to a new quarters or labor developments.
That hasn’t changed – even today, during a global pandemic.
Like every hospital, small or large, across the country, we had our share of difficulties during the first wave of COVID-19 almost a year ago. An initial shortage of PPE sent some hospitals out into the market, competing against each other to get more.
At St. Vincent Hospital, we didn’t struggle to that extent, but it was tough. Nevertheless, we improvised, we managed and we still maintained a supply, as per CDC and the state recommendations of what we were expected to have.
Things have improved significantly since, with the hospital having built its supply of PPE and other equipment in anticipation of the second surge, during the quieter summer months. Because of this preparation, we have been able to take care of patients with adequate supplies and equipment. Through it all, we have stayed true to our mission. Our level of care and safety is comparable to other hospitals around the country, with similar outcomes.
The workload is heavier than expected, but that is not unique to us. Every hospital in the country has faced the same circumstances, some a lot worse than others. From an institutional standpoint, we are all doing our best. The workforce, in general, is experiencing some mental and physical exhaustion, working long hours taking care of critically ill patients, but all of us at St. Vincent Hospital remain committed to delivering quality service and patient care with the concern and support of our administrative team led by the CEO, Carolyn Jackson.
In my positions with the American College of Physicians and the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine, I am in contact with physicians and staff at hospitals across Massachusetts and the U.S. I can state confidently that St. Vincent Hospital compares favorably in terms of care, supplies and patient outcomes.
The hospital and the nurses are now in talks for a new contract, and even though we are not involved in the conversation, it is our understanding that the generous proposal put forth by St. Vincent Hospital is in recognition of the nurses’ hard work and dedication. All the physicians on staff at the hospital are hopeful an agreement can be reached soon. Personally, I have great respect for the work that nurses do, especially in the current circumstances. They demonstrate professionalism and a strong work ethic in their day-to-day care, and they get positive reviews from patients, an inspiration for all of us.
A strike would not be productive. It would interrupt our ability to treat patients who need our help, especially during a pandemic, and would add another level of stress to our hospital.
Our unifying goal is to make sure we continue the mission of St. Vincent Hospital as a safe environment, with quality healthcare and adequate equipment. If we all agree on that, I’m hopeful that everyone will come to an agreement and together keep our focus where it belongs: on our patients.
Dr. George Abraham is chief of medicine at St. Vincent Hospital. He is board certified in internal medicine and infectious diseases, president-elect of the American College of Physicians and chair of the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine.