The Virgin Islands Daily News

Residents voice concerns about Luis Hospital

ST. CROIX - Residents opened up on Luis Hospital Chief Executive Officer Jeff Nelson at a community forum Tuesday, telling him straight up what problems they see at the hospital and letting him know what changes they think need to be made.

And Nelson asked for more.

Tuesday night, the new Luis Hospital CEO launched a series of meetings with the public, seeking input on the question "What do you want from your hospital?"

About 40 to 50 people attended, many of them members of the hospital's staff, although the audience at the Virgin Islands Cardiac Center also included people who were not associated with the hospital.

The forum began with a video presentation showing hospital staff describing where they want the hospital to be, focusing on the goal staff members came up with: "To be the most trusted, patient-family centered health system in the Caribbean by 2020."

Nelson told the audience that the purpose of the forum was for hospital officials to listen to the concerns and desires of the community.

"We want to be responsive to you," he said.

Then, for more than an hour, he listened as different members of the audience spoke up about everything from patients who were unable to get a blanket at the hospital when they needed one to the need for serious problems to be corrected in order to rebuild the community's trust.

Several people spoke about the need for the hospital to be more open, posting results from its patient satisfaction surveys and quality care indicators online.

"I expect a focus on the truth of health care," said Sheila Scullion.

Another woman said she wanted to see changes "to make this an adequate small-town hospital." The woman said that for the 42 years she has lived here, "it hasn't been that way," and the focus should be on building the basics - providing good diagnostic and treatment services.

Sen. Sammuel Sanes said he wants to see the hospital increase its services, so residents don't have to go to Puerto Rico or Miami for care.

Another woman said she did not want to hear "a lot of corporate-speak" but thinks the community should be polled and asked what it wants to see at Luis Hospital.

She also said she would like all the hospital staff to go to the Buccaneer or another "reputable" hotel and watch how they treat their guests.

"That's how I want to be treated" at the hospital, she said.

Other things that audience members mentioned included accountability for hospital staff and executives, executive contracts based on performance and jobs given to health professionals based on their qualifications, not on who they know. The residents said they wanted to see real action on recruiting Virgin Islanders who have trained in the health care field back to the territory.

Some who spoke up also said the problem with the community's lack of trust in the hospital is based on real experiences.

"The problem of trust is not imaginary. It doesn't arise from nowhere," said Bruce Spector, who told officials that trust has to be earned. Spector is an attorney who represents the physicians' union but was speaking at the forum solely for himself, he said.

He noted that Nelson was brought here to fix the problems and encouraged him to adopt a path to excellence. Spector touched on a variety of topics and submitted a written statement with more details to hospital officials.

"It's critical that we get it right this time," he said.

Several times throughout the forum, after one person had been heard and the meeting grew silent, Nelson encouraged the audience to share their thoughts.

"This is the time. Our ears are open for you," he said, and someone else would speak up.

Nelson said the thoughts expressed during the community meetings would be compiled and published in some way, so that people working at the hospital - and the community - will know.

The answers will become the foundation for a covenant between the hospital and the community, and the issues will be addressed, he said.

"Just wait. We are moving," he said.

The next forum has been scheduled for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday at Villa Morales in Estate Whim.

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 774-8772 ext. 455 or e-mail jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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