Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital will send all of its psychiatric in-patients to Schneider Regional Medical Center on Tuesday and soon will begin reducing its number of dialysis patients, the hospital announced after regular business hours Monday.
Psychiatric patients are being transferred because of the "recent unavailability of physician oversight" for them, according to a statement emailed to the press early Monday evening.
Schneider has agreed to accept the patients to ensure they continue to receive quality care, and the transfer will occur "during the next day," according to Monday’s statement.
Juan Luis’ psychiatric clinical nursing team will be accompanying the patients during the transfer and will assist with their care during their hospitalization. According to the release, patients requiring psychiatric treatment who arrive at the Luis Emergency Department will be stabilized and transferred to Schneider.
Additionally, Juan Luis’ kidney dialysis unit will start reducing its patient rolls April 4, according to the statement.
The hospital’s dialysis unit has been operating at maximum capacity for some time. Over the course of three shifts, they serve 90 patients a day, six days a week. To expand, the hospital would have to go into a fourth shift, giving dialysis treatments in the middle of the night, Dr. Ramesh Lakram, the hospital’s chairman of nephrology, said last fall in a meeting with dialysis patients.
At the same time, Lakram and other officials have said the number of dialysis patients is expected to double in the next five years.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which certifies the nation’s hospitals, flagged the dialysis unit for procedural problems during an April 2009 survey and has been working with Juan Luis to bring that unit up to its standards since then.
To that end, Juan Luis’ governing board planned last fall to reduce the strain on the hospital’s kidney dialysis program by sending roughly one-third of its 90 dialysis patients to the privately-run Caribbean Kidney Center on St. Croix. The goal was to ease staffing strains and create some breathing room for staff to take time out for more training, the hospital’s governing board Chairman Valdemar Hill said at the time.
But at a dialysis support group meeting last October, patients objected to being transferred, saying they like the care they receive at the hospital, and the hospital abandoned that approach in favor of gradual attrition.
But, in a recent meeting with CMS, Juan Luis Hospital agreed to reduce the number of patients being treated at the facility "to facilitate a reeducation program that will assist the hospital in not only meeting but surpassing the minimum standards for dialysis services," according to the hospital’s statement.
Patients will be able to keep the same physician if they choose to relocate to the Caribbean Kidney Center, according to the hospital. Caribbean Kidney Center is the only other provider of dialysis on St. Croix.
Dr. Jan Tawakol, a kidney specialist at Juan Luis, said last week the hospital’s doctors had gotten together and agreed to work with dialysis patients and the Caribbean Kidney Center to ensure they continue to receive the same care by the same doctors at the new location.
Over the next several weeks, hospital management will be meeting with the patients and family representatives, the hospital’s hemodialysis support group, and other stakeholders to talk about the change and the plan for kidney care at the hospital.
Called for comment Monday, Hill referred questions to Juan Luis’ new Chief Executive Officer Jeff Nelson.
Calls to Nelson’s office were not returned by publication deadline.