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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, June 22, 2024


Aug. 23, 2001 – Eugene Woods, departing chief executive officer of the Roy L. Schneider Hospital, said Thursday something must be done about the situation with registered nurses if the hospital is to continue to grow and function at the highest possible level.
Woods said he has met with Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and two members of the Legislature; Sens. Douglas Canton and Almando "Rocky" Liburd, to fashion legislation which would increase salaries for nurses at the hospital. Though the hospital now enjoys semi-autonomy, personnel issues are still handled through the government's Office of Personnel.
Woods said he expected the proposal to be submitted to the Legislature by mid-September, weeks after he assumes his new position as vice president of Clinical Services at the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C.
The shortage of nurses is not limited to the Virgin Islands, Woods said. It is a national problem At his former post in Virginia, he said there were 60 nursing vacancies. He called the shortage, "a fact of life," saying it would take at least eight years to turn the situation around.
And the shortage is the reason some patients who were not in "an acute state" had to be released from the Schneider hospital recently in order to meet the required nurse to patient ratio.
He explained that with the dearth of home health care and other health care facilities in the territory patients are kept in the hospital that do not need to be there. However, no surgeries had to be canceled or postponed due to the shortage.
But, Woods said, higher pay and better working conditions would go a long way in keeping qualified registered nurses in the territory. Otherwise, "they will leave if they can't get paid. Health care has to be a priority."
Among the improved conditions would be better communications and greater access to supplies.
Both of those things have been improved under semi-autonomy, which happened after ten years of struggle, under Woods' watch. "I always said semi-autonomy was not a panacea, but none of the negative predictions came true," and the positive projections did. In less than a year from receiving semi-autonomous status the hospital had reestablished a working relationship with vendors who had cut off credit to the hospital. With more control over its own money, the hospital was able to make arrangements with and keep commitments to vendors.
Woods, who is leaving the territory Sunday with his family, said he was confident the hospital board would find an appropriate replacement for him. He said board members, who he suggested were the community's unsung heroes, had been working around the clock to come up with a candidate to fill the position Woods held for three years.
He said three "excellent" people were to be interviewed in September.
He said the board was "the best board I've ever seen anywhere. I don't think the community knows how lucky they are." He cited, as one of its accomplishments the development of a strategic plan, "the first this hospital has ever had." He said he was confident the momentum had been created to carry though with the plan, too.
Woods dispelled rumors about why he was leaving saying it was for two reasons only,
"My family and a tremendous opportunity."
Woods will supervise the operations of the Heart and Cancer clinics at the 900-bed, teaching hospital. He said it had long been his wish to work at a teaching hospital.
"It is the opportunity of a life time."

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