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New hospital set-up results in delayed care

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After the Zuckerberg San Francisco Hospital and Trauma Center opened, doctors found that travel time increased. (Mike Koozmin/2015 S.F. Examiner)
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“I am frequently late to trauma codes when I am primary trauma resident, resulting in delayed care in a very acute setting,” wrote a colleague of mine, a Trauma Surgery Resident at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (ZSFGH).

As an emergency medicine resident physician, I am the first doctor critically ill patients encounter at ZSFGH. From heart attacks to car accidents to broken bones, I triage and stabilize patients and quickly connect them with life-saving specialists.

At our hospital, we treat more than 3,900 trauma patients annually. I am proud to work at a community hospital that provides excellent care to some of the city’s most vulnerable patients. When the new hospital opened last year, my colleagues and I expected upgraded facilities and patient-centered technology.

But with the opening of the new ZSFGH hospital, my job has become far more difficult.

Due to poor planning, frontline resident physicians from every specialty, from trauma surgery to orthopedics to neurosurgery, have no work space in the same building as their patients or their emergency department. Instead, they must travel from the now empty old hospital to treat their patients, delaying patient care by precious minutes each time their doctor makes the journey. One fellow resident found by using her step-tracker that she traveled over six miles in one day to get from her assigned work space to her patients.

For critical patients, seconds count. If your loved one were in a car accident and needed help, would you want your trauma doctor to travel from a separate building, or meet the ambulance at the hospital door? San Francisco deserves a trauma hospital with doctors in it, not just by it.

Over the past year our union, the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR/SEIU), has brought this concern to hospital leadership and offered solutions. There is plenty of unoccupied space that we could convert to resident work space. Yet the ZSFGH leadership has provided no solutions. The response from the City of San Francisco has been that the hospital was designed for team-based care. We are happy to participate in team-based care, but our ability to be effective members of the team is compromised when we are adding extra travel and logistical challenges to our 12- to 16-hour days.

As physicians, we have a duty to demand the best care for our patients. We are looking for partners in The City and the ZSFGH administration who share that mission and are ready to cut through the red tape to make sure patient care is never compromised.

Josephine Valenzuela is a former regional vice president for the Committee of Interns and Residents.

Update: The Committee of Interns and Residents and the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital administration have now reached an agreement that includes three resident workrooms/consultation rooms in the new hospital building. The hospital will reassess the availability of call rooms and workrooms going forward.

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