Provident may cut beds

Provident Hospital is running low on funds used to hire temporary registered nurses, and may have to cut the number of patients it treats to make ends meet.

The hospital's chief operating officer, Sidney Thomas, yesterday told the county's health system board that Provident has a nurse shortage. Consequently, the hospital has relied more than budgeted on temporary nurses. Those nurses are often more expensive than staff nurses, which means expenses are rising.

“We have a situation where we’ve spent the majority of our registry money,” he said.  “We know now we have a limited amount of money to last the rest of the year.”

Thomas said the hospital is short 25 nurses. Nurses are less likely to apply for jobs at Provident, he said, because of media attention on the possibility of the hospital closing due to county budget cuts.

To ease the workload of nurses and to provide more personal care, he said the hospital is considering cutting an undetermined number of its 119 beds.

“This will be a significant problem for the system because we’d have more transfers to Stroger (Hospital)…and more (ambulance) bypasses,” Thomas said.

Board member David Carvalho asked that the health system investigate the issues at Provident.

“This doesn’t make sense at all," he said. Carvalho said statistics provided to the board show Provident's staff count is high.

Board members asked for a complete report for their next meeting, and said it might be possible to shift health system funds to give Provident a boost.

In other business, health and hospitals chief William Foley told the board he is close to hiring a performance director to oversee the various consultants assisting the health system in various areas. The performance director will head the Office of Performance Improvement.

“I think it’s important to get that resource in as soon as possible, because we’ve got the consultants running around the place from different firms, and we should coordinate,” Foley said.

Also, the health system is planning six initial town hall meetings throughout the county to give the public a glimpse into the board’s thought process.

“The purpose is to get input from the community, in all the communities we serve,” Foley said.

Once the board crafts what Foley called “a draft vision strategy,” several more public meetings before the plan is finalized.