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Numbers and needs of patients change; hospital will change with them

By: Gloria Young, Journal staff writer
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The relocation of the Acute Rehab Unit to Roseville in late November opened up 11 additional beds at Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital. Shorter hospital stays and more procedures transferred to outpatient care have also contributed to fewer patient days, a trend hospitals are seeing nationwide. For Mitch Hanna, chief administrative officer, and the rest of the administrative team, that has opened up the possibility that the hospital’s now separate medical and surgical areas could be combined — at least temporarily. “If we have enough beds on one floor to house both medical and surgical, it is more cost effective to put both on one unit, rather than to operate two support systems,” Hanna explained. “It doesn’t mean a change in staffing ratios — there’s still the same ratio of nurses to patients. We’re still using the same staff. What it does mean is better efficiency without jeopardizing the quality of care.” And it would streamline operations. “If we had both units open, we’d have a charge nurse in both units,” he said. “It’s very costly to have a charge nurse overseeing seven or eight patients in one unit, and have a unit secretary. If we consolidate when the hospital gets to a critical low census, there’ll be some savings and some efficiencies on housekeeping and food services — you’re delivering food to one area instead of two. It’s just a more fiscally responsible way to operate.” Officials came close to consolidating last week, when the number of patients was getting low in both units. “As it turns out, this is the thing in health care — you never know,” Hanna said. “The Emergency Room got slammed and we had nine admissions. We try to look at that. We try to look at the Operating Room schedule. For some of that stuff you can plan, you can anticipate it. You know inpatient and outpatient surgery. But when patients walk into the emergency department, you can’t predict that.” Many hospitals’ medical and surgical units are combined, he said. The problem will be resolved within the next couple of years. Auburn Faith has begun converting semi-private rooms to private. When the project is completed, it will reduce beds from 97 to 65. Dr. Stuart Campbell, chief of staff, has worked at Sutter Auburn Faith since 1992 and witnessed the changes when Sutter Roseville became a regional trauma center. “That was a win-win situation for everyone, because it brought the ability for our facility to focus on the needs of the community and to allow that kind of trauma care to be tended by a facility that had a full staff to do that,” he said. “As community needs change, the hospital can focus more on (those needs).”