Saint Mary’s Hospital trying to turn around for the better

29 07 2007

After a tumultuous spring, St. Mary’s Hospital in Passaic appears to be stabilizing, despite some lingering issues, especially related to staffing and the facility’s cardiac program, according to doctors, hospital staff and state officials. The state is reviewing the license for the cardiac program, which expires Oct. 1.

St. Mary’s took over bankrupt PBI Regional Medical Center on March 1 and moved most of its operations to the 350 Boulevard building. That move was fraught with difficulties, including inoperative equipment and too few staff, and the hospital was cited by both the state and The Joint Commission, a national accrediting organization, for safety issues, partially stemming from those early problems.

But since the early post-merger weeks, according to administrators, doctors, nurses and union leaders, the scramble of combining two hospitals is giving way to the steadier rhythm of day-to-day operations.

“We knew we had a lot of work to do, and we knew we had to roll up our sleeves,” said Robert Iannaccone, the chief operating officer at the hospital. “We did that.”

He cited the reopening of the maternal/child unit, which had 13 newborns on a recent day, along with a core of committed doctors and the initiation of patient-satisfaction surveys as evidence of a hospital moving forward.

Some earlier issues are being resolved. A preliminary denial of accreditation in April from The Joint Commission — owing to fire safety equipment problems at St. Mary’s former facility on Pennington Avenue — has been taken care of, said Iannaccone, as have other cited problems, including keeping prescriptions past their expiration date and the lack of a hospital-wide infection control program.

Charlene Hill, a commission spokeswoman, said the hospital now has conditional accreditation and must pass a follow-up survey, likely this fall, to be considered fully accredited. The hospital submitted a plan of correction earlier this month.

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