Poorly maintained premises: Federal inspectors found multiple safety violations in the operating rooms at Harbor UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, according to a report cited Saturday by the Los Angeles Times.
• Harbor UCLA Medical Center is under fire from both federal and state officials for a variety of health and safety violations that could lead to infection or even death.
• The 48-year-old building has a variety of problems, but he hospital staff also is to blame, inspectors said.
• The county-operated hospital could lose Medicaid funding if the safety violations are not corrected right away.
Inspectors said the health care facility ”has failed to keep its operating rooms clean and safe and to protect its patients from possible infection,” the Times reported.
The inspection was completed earlier this year, but the report was just released a few days ago. During the probe, officials found holes in the ceilings, dust and clutter in the rooms, and a humidity level that can lead to the spread of germs. To make matters worse, the inspectors said, hospital staff members weren’t washing their hands as they should.
The infection control problems were so bad that the federal government threatened to revoke the county-operated facility’s Medicaid funding. If that were to happen, the hospital would probably have to shut down.
The hospital’s new chief executive, Delvecchio Finley, said the medical center had already submitted its plan to correct the problems and has addressed all of the federal inspectors’ concerns. The facility now does weekly audits of infection-control risks and had provided more staff education on hand washing. But the building itself will continue to face problems because it was built almost a half-century ago.
The “decrepit” state of the hospital is not news to county officials, county supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. ”It was known that the current conditions were simply unacceptable,” he told the Times.
A new $323 million, 190,000-square-foot surgical center and emergency room is being constructed at the site. It is expected to open in 2013. In the meantime, however, hospital officials admit that the facility will continue to have safety issues. That’s bad news for the 80,600 patients who visit the emergency room every year, especially since Harbor-UCLA is the only trauma center in the area.
And it gets worse. The building’s safety issues are just the tip of the iceberg. Human errors also are a big problem. The California Department of Public Health fined the hospital four times in 2008 and 2009 for medical errors that put patients at risk of serious injury or death.
“In one of those cases, a mix-up in labeling caused the wrong patient to have his prostate removed,” the Times reported. “In another, a sponge was inadvertently left in a patient’s abdomen during an operation.”
In another case, a pedestrian accident victim died in the facility after nurses failed to monitor his condition, health department officials said.
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