Over the past couple of weeks, the Samaritan organization has been dealing with some extremely unfortunate events involving the arrests of four nurses for various charges related to controlled substances. We wanted to take an opportunity to reach out to you directly to share details surrounding these events, as well as to reassure you that the discovery of this activity, as well as the investigation and action taken, was the result of proactive and effective leadership now in place in the Emergency Department.
Though it is disappointing that these activities occurred within our organization, it is important to note that the proactive auditing systems we have in place to identify and act upon this type of behavior are working exactly the way they were intended. Further, our Emergency Department leadership team took swift and deliberate action to notify the NYS Bureau of Narcotics, which ultimately led to the arrest of these individuals.
As you may be aware, there have been significant efforts and resources dedicated to the improvement of processes and patient satisfaction in the Emergency Department. A new management team is in place, which includes Ms. Robin Schroeder, RN, MSN, director of emergency services, who joined the team in February 2013, and Mr. Brian OHearn, vice president of patient care services/chief nursing officer, who arrived in late 2012. Dr. Maja Lundborg-Gray and Dr. Sarah Rowland-Delaney continue to provide outstanding leadership and support on behalf of the emergency physicians and providers.
Also in 2012, Samaritan engaged an organization called Emergency Excellence to assist in identifying and implementing the necessary changes. One of the most significant process changes, called Rapid Clinical Evaluation (RCE), is focused on getting the least acute patients through the system as quickly and efficiently as possible in order to free up staff and beds for true emergency patients. The implementation of these changes called for additional positions to be added. Those new positions were filled with agency nurses until permanent staff could be hired and trained. We do not typically have this high number of agency nurses at one time, and temporary staffing is certainly not the ideal situation; however, we felt it was necessary in order to implement the process improvements as quickly as possible.
In addition to the employment screenings conducted by the hiring agency, traveling nurses undergo the same on-boarding process at SMC as our permanent employees. This includes background checks, drug tests, nursing license validation and reference checks. No issues were identified during the on-boarding process of these individuals.
Though unfortunate, each of these cases demonstrates Samaritans diligence in identifying and acting upon these types of behaviors, as well as our zero-tolerance approach to dealing with this type of activity. The actions of these individuals are extremely disappointing to their colleagues and to the organization. However, their actions are by no means a reflection of the hundreds of other staff members who abide by the law and dedicate their lives to caring for patients. We are proud of our 800-plus professional and dedicated nurses who continue to provide exceptional care and compassion to our patients and help to move Samaritan forward.
In closing, let us reassure you and the entire community that our efforts in the Emergency Department are resulting in numerous improvements to process, wait times and patient satisfaction. These recent events, though unfortunate, will make Samaritan a better and stronger organization as we move forward. Patient safety remains our top priority, and you can rest assured that we will not tolerate any action or behavior that could jeopardize the safety and well-being of our patients.
Thank you for your ongoing support of Samaritans efforts to advance local health care. We hope this information is helpful to you in understanding the situation, as well as our commitment to continually improving for the benefit of our patients and community.
Mr. Carman is president and CEO of Samaritan Medical Center.