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Seton Coastside lab changes don’t affect quality of care

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Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2012 11:30 am

As medical director for the Emergency Room and Skilled Nursing Unit at Seton Medical Center Coastside, I have a deep interest in the quality of care provided to residents of the Half Moon Bay community. That is why I felt it is critical to clarify some misperceptions and inaccuracies included in the Aug. 23 article headlined, “Seton lab changes cause concern.”

The article implied that recent changes in laboratory services compromise the quality of care provided at Coastside, and that turnaround time for tests in the Emergency Room would suffer, neither of which is true. The cartoon that accompanied the article was inappropriate and incorrect in that it implied that Emergency Room wait times are negatively impacting the health of patients. This is just plain false. The quality of patient care remains high at Seton Coastside and our Emergency Department has little to no wait time, with a staff reputation of providing excellent care with high patient satisfaction.

In fact, the recent changes in lab services at Seton Coastside impact the hours and availability of outpatient lab testing only. Unfortunately, the volume of services did not support the cost to continue to staff the outpatient laboratory for a full day or on weekends. We found, on many weekends, fewer than five patients per day were visiting the lab. Rather than completely eliminating the availability of this important community service, we have maintained outpatient lab services on weekdays from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. to meet our commitment to community needs, as well as our need to balance effective use of precious limited resources. Outpatient testing remains available at our Daly City location from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays, as well as 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 7 a.m. to noon on Sundays.

In terms of laboratory services for the residents of the Coastside, critical lab tests are performed onsite 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Other lab tests that are done within the hospital do get sent to our Daly City lab through daily regular couriers, which has been a common practice over the past several years without any issues or impact on patient care.

The article also raised the issue and concern around point-of-care testing. With point-of-care testing, lab results are available within minutes, enabling clinical staff to make faster treatment decisions than in the past. Point-of-care testing is a common and growing practice at hospitals across the country, enabling nurses and physicians to perform lab tests at the bedside. This practice reduces patient wait times, while providing quality test results and the ability to direct treatment in a timely fashion, faster than in the past. Staff members who perform these tests all adhere to strict training and practice standards and guidelines of the College of American Pathologists. Seton Coastside is CAP accredited and meets all of the state and other regulatory requirements that ensure the necessary quality of care for point-of-care testing. Ongoing quality control occurs to ensure that we are exceeding those standards.

At Seton Coastside, we remain committed to meeting the health care needs of Half Moon Bay and the surrounding community and are proud of the quality of care we provide. Like any organization, we must balance needs with economic realities and make the best possible decisions. We have done that throughout our history, guided by the values of the Daughters of Charity, always with the needs of the patient and quality of care at the forefront.

Dr. Robert Buscho is medical director at Seton Medical Center Coastside in Moss Beach.

Editor’s Note: The cartoon referenced by Dr. Buscho did not accompany the article in question, but rather ran on a separate, opinion page.

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