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Health Department Surveys Santa Fe Hospital Staffing

It's business as usual as patients come and go at Santa Fe's Christus St. Vincent Hospital, but inside visitors from the New Mexico Department of Health are undertaking a site surveyin response to a complaint by the union representing hundreds of hospital nurses.

Some 420 nursing staff work at Christus St. Vincent, the hospital that serves Santa Fe and surrounding communities.  Tuesday night at 9:00 state health department investigators went into the facility and began an unannounced survey of staffing patterns there.  Fonda Osborn is president of the local District 1199 branch of the national healthcare employees union.  That’s the group that filed a complaint with DOH several weeks ago, alleging there aren’t enough nurses on duty at all times, and that the hospital is dangerously understaffed, including in the operating rooms.

“On occasion those nurses are required to work 22 hours in a row,"  Osborn said.  "One nurse told me at 22 hours, it’s like you’re enebriated.  So we realize there’s safety concerns in that and we want them to look at the system and figure out why this is happening and make that kind of correction.”

Osborn says the union hopes that DOH will require the hospital to fill all staffing positions at the levels at which they have agreed.  A hospital spokesman confirms health department officials are at the hospital and that they welcome a review.  A DOH spokesman said they will share results of the survey once it is complete, but wouldn’t say how long investigators will remain at Christus St. Vincent.