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Paul V. Coates--Confidential File

September 6, 2007 | 10:56 pm

Sept. 6, 1957

Paul_coates Sometimes it's a good idea to holler

Because if you don't, people don't hear. Or, at least, they don't pay attention.

I've done a little hollering over the past couple of months--about a situation which I considered a pretty bad one.

It concerned conditions at County General Hospital.

Too many employees there felt that their services to patients should be regarded as favors, rather than duties.

And, as a result, too many patients were receiving indifferent, insufficient care.

Today, I hope, I'm through hollering.

Because, from reports I've received during the past week, lots of things have been happening. Things which point toward much-improved conditions at the institution.

There have been people fired.

There have been some changes made to facilitate handling of patients and to alleviate personnel shortages in certain sections of the hospital.

1957_0906_palladiumAnd, just last week, the county Board of Supervisors decided that it should make a check into the situation. The body appointed a special committee to conduct an investigation.

Before I start pecking away at County General's treatment last July, stories illustrating its faults had been popping up in papers for years.

So I claim no credit for having unearthed anything new.

A few days ago, I discussed the hospital's shortcomings with four of its top officials.

All of them have ideas which could turn General into one of the better hospitals in this area, in spite of its size.

At the meeting, Director Robert J. Thomas told me:

"The hospital has definitely fallen behind.

"In employee development, in modern procedures, in our physical plant, we are not up to date."

He added, however, that things are starting to happen. There are probably close to a hundred projects and reforms now either started or in the mill.

A sampling of them:

The present, poorly planned admitting room will receive a $62,000 ($444,247.59 USD 2006) face-lifting designed to speed up patient processing.

Stricter, more organized employee-control methods are being put into practice.

"Before," Thomas said, "we graded a new employee only once--at the end of his six-month probationary period.

"Now, we'll do it monthly."

To improve patient morale, visitors will be allowed to come to the hospital every day between 7 and 8 p.m. Previously, visits were permitted on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons only.

To cut hours of waiting for outpatients, the hospital is setting up a staggered schedule of appointments in many of its clinics.

Its elevator system is to be overhauled. New X-ray film processing equipment is being installed to cut the present delay of 45 minutes down to six or seven. A system to expedite filing and movement of patients' charts will be in effect in two or three weeks.

1957_0906_traffic_ad The plant's physical problems can't be solved at once, of course. The new osteopathic unit isn't due for completion until the end of the year.

But one problem which is being tackled right now, Thomas said, is the shortage of registered nurses.

A few months ago, there were 214 vacancies.

A recent nationwide "enlistment" campaign by the hospital cut the figure by 80.

"We're going to make General a better place to work for people who want some satisfaction out of their jobs," Thomas told me. "And as for the dead weight--the Civil Service Commission has yet to turn us down on a request for dismissal of an employee."

The human element in any business is a major one.

If General Hospital can whip some enthusiasm into its personnel, the problem should be well on its way to [being] solved.