California Hospital Inspection Reports Often Lack Critical Details
Patients often are kept in the dark about potentially harmful errors at hospitals across California, the Orange County Register reports.
California hospitals are required to report infection rates, which are published by CMS and the state Department of Public Health. The reports can help patients compare hospital quality, according to the Register. The reports are released after CMS approves a hospital's corrective action plan.
Meanwhile, routine inspections are conducted by the Joint Commission, which accredits most U.S. hospitals for Medicare funding. The commission's surveys are not publicized. Some inspection reports are only made available through requests under the Public Records Act.
Reports Lack Certain Details
However, even after an inspection report is requested, it can take a long time for them to be released, according to the Register.
For example, an inspection report stemming from an outbreak of infections at Mission Hospital was released:
- One year after four patients were sickened during surgeries; and
- Six months after regulators inspecting the Mission Viejo and Laguna Beach campuses found an understaffed infection control department, among other issues.
Meanwhile, inspection reports often omit incidents of medical and other errors, the Register reports.
For instance, an inspection was conducted at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange after a patient was burned in an operating room fire in January. The fire was caused by an accumulation of oxygen under a surgical drape during a procedure. However, the fire was not mentioned in a subsequent report, which was released three months later.
Rufus Arthur, of CMS' survey and certification division, said the hospital was not cited for the fire because "it had already taken measures to address the incident to the satisfaction of the surveyors."
Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumers Union's Safe Patient Project, said that "there's a lack of awareness on the part of the public," noting, "Part of that is because this type of information is kept secret." She added, "Inspectors don't send out a news release and say, 'We just inspected this hospital, and this is what we found.'"
According to the Register, patients could be more careful when selecting a hospital if additional citation details were released.
Len Bruzzese -- with the Association of Health Care Journalists, which publishes inspection results -- said, "By bringing these reports into public view, we can encourage the kinds if improvement that will save lives" (Chandler, Orange County Register, 12/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.