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We Saw What Understaffing Does Letter Of The Week: From Feb. 26

Mon., March 9, 1998

On Feb. 21, 2 to 10 p.m., our family experienced what happens when nurse-to- patient ratios are low.

Our son was admitted to Sacred Heart Medical Center’s emergency room because of a suicide attempt and experiencing delusions. During those hours we saw nurses intermittently. We did most of the monitoring ourselves, handling delusions and alerting nurses to problems.

While he was being interviewed by Mental Health we left for a bathroom break. He escaped during the 20 minutes we were gone. We found him stumbling on Third Avenue while cars were dodging him. He had four new lacerations from falling as he ran. We returned him to Sacred Heart and stayed with him until they had him secured.

Sacred Heart’s emergency room was extremely busy and totally understaffed. The mental health people were unable to respond until after 5 p.m. Why?

We feel the patient ratio is too high. Nurses and doctors didn’t have the time to respond to our emergency effectively. How can a patient’s safety and care be first when there aren’t enough nurses to care for them? Carolyn R. Anderson Oakesdale, Wash.



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