Sharp Grossmont says it's moving to correct communication problems
Union Tribune (2008-08-04) Angelica Martinez
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By Angelica Martinez
UNION-TRIBUNE BREAKING NEWS TEAM
10:45 a.m. August 4, 2008
LA MESA – Immediate changes in communication procedures are taking place at Sharp Grossmont Hospital to correct serious problems that resulted in preventable deaths, board district officials said during a special meeting Monday morning.
The Grossmont Healthcare District board of directors accepted responsibility for not being informed about deficiencies in the hospital's operations and asked questions from hospital staff who attended the public meeting.
“When did you know about the deficiencies or the mishaps and what is your role or was your role in resolving them?” said Deborah D. Mc Elravy
, district board vice president. “Why was the elected district board not notified and what did you intend to achieve by this omission?”
said the hospital's deficiencies are “disturbing” and “unacceptable.” She said corrective actions have taken place “to guarantee, not assure, that this will never happen again.”
State and federal health regulators are scrutinizing the hospital because of major lapses in patient care and management, including those that caused the preventable deaths of three patients in March and April.
The hospital risks losing all Medicare and Medi-Cal payments if it doesn't make a complete turnaround by Oct. 15.
The Grossmont Healthcare District's board of directors said they were unaware of the hospital's problems.
”One of the most disturbing revelations was that this board was kept in the dark,” Mc Elravy
said. Since learning of the hospital's troubles in The San Diego Union-Tribune
, she's put herself on the corporate board to be more informed.
About 70 people attended the 7:30 a.m. meeting at the district's conference center on Wakarusa Street. Several patients and their relatives addressed the board and took them to task for not knowing about the hospital's problems.
”You did not do your job,” said Vera Giles, of La Mesa. “How could you possibly not know this was happening? How could you have allowed such superficial contact?”
Lynn Ucker, of La Mesa, said her daughter-in-law died in March 2007. The 26-year-old's death was not one cited by regulators in the report.
”She should be alive today,” Ucker said. “Add her to the growing list of patients who received deplorable care and had a deadly outcome.”
Ucker asked for hospital officials to look into “unsafe pain management practices and lack of nursing assistance skills.”
Others demanded to know why district board members did not attend hospital board meetings to be informed.
”I elected you people to represent me and you chose not to go to the hospital's board meeting,” said John Whalen, a retired Alpine resident. “I would like to request that if either the five of you cannot go to the board meetings, you should resign, because you are being negligent in the performance of your duties.”
James Stieringer, the board's president, said the communication problems at the hospital should be corrected by Aug. 15. A second concern, the clinical outcomes of the care that is provided to patients, is more complicated but also being addressed, he said.
Among the changes being made, the hospital's chief executive officer and other designated staff are to inform district board members of any serious incidents or investigations taking place in regular reports, Stieringer said.
The taxpayer-funded district oversees Sharp Health Care
's lease to run Sharp Grossmont Hospital, which serves a 750-square-mile area in East County with more than 652,000 residents.
Regulators conducted two inspections in April and May. They said some of the errors include the improper restraining of a schizophrenic patient who later suffocated.
In another incident, an 83-year-old woman was injected with a dangerous anti-narcotic into her bloodstream after undergoing a hysterectomy and later died, according to the report.
Other problems listed in the report include the improper use of CPR by a nurse, an unsanitary operating-room mattress held together by tape and glue and unsafe storage and handling of food and kitchen equipment. Medications with old expiration dates were also used, according to the report.
The loss of federal reimbursement means the hospital could lose all Medicare and Medi-Cal funds, which make up 50 percent of the facility's net patient revenue. The government programs pay for the treatment of seniors, the poor and the disabled.
Angelica Martinez: (619) 293-1317; firstname.lastname@example.org