Charles R. Drew University of Medicine Places President on Administrative Leave
The Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, the medical school affiliated with Los Angeles-based Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, on Friday placed its president, Dr. Charles Francis, on paid administrative leave following a task force report stating that he has "lost confidence of many on the board, the faculty and the surrounding community," the Los Angeles Times reports (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 1/3). On Dec. 23 a nine-member panel headed by former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher delivered its report, which contained "scathing criticism" of the medical school and its leadership, according to the Times. The task force report said it was "not possible to sustain" the school's 18 residency training programs at King/Drew given its average of 200 inpatients; recommended a cooperative medical residency program with a larger, more prestigious institution; called for the school to establish a "culture of accountability"; and recommended a "positive leadership transition" at the school (Briscoe/Landsberg, Los Angeles Times, 12/24/03). The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education last month recommended closing King/Drew's neonatal residency program. On Oct. 22, the ACGME also found King/Drew's oversight of its medical resident training programs to be substandard and decided to revoke accreditation for the facility's surgery and radiology residency programs, effective June 2004 (California Healthline, 12/4/03). Harry Douglas, the school's executive vice president, has been appointed interim president. Douglas said he hopes to prepare the institution for a new president but said he would not be a candidate for the position. He added that he wants to correct accreditation problems in the doctor training programs and stabilize internal management. This week, he will brief the school's executive board to outline ideas for reform, and he will work with the board to consolidate some of the institution's programs (Los Angeles Times, 1/3).
Los Angeles County health officials on Dec. 24 closed a 22-bed patient-care ward at King/Drew after three patients died "under questionable circumstances" between July and December 2003, the Times reports (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 12/27/03). Three patients died allegedly because of improper care, including two women who died in July after a new bedside system that monitors patient vital signs failed to alert technicians that the patients required urgent medical care and a patient who died Dec. 14 when staff members did not intervene when vital signs declined. A state investigation report released by the Department of Health Services in November found nurses at King/Drew also did not adequately examine the patients and in one case lied about tests that were never performed (California Healthline, 12/23/03). Fred Leaf, chief operating officer of the county DHS, closed the patient monitoring unit and transferred patients to other units and county hospitals because he said he was "concerned that King/Drew did not have enough nurses trained to read the sophisticated monitors in that unit," the Times reports. He added that he would not reopen the unit until it could be staffed by qualified nurses for at least two months without interruption. According to nurses at other hospitals, several weeks of training are required to learn how to properly read bedside monitors and respond appropriately, the Times reports.
The county DHS also has:
- Installed a new team of managers at King/Drew.
- Hired a private firm to provide nursing services.
- Prohibited King/Drew from receiving trauma patients by helicopter.
- Increased employee monitoring to reduce absenteeism.
- Consolidated the facility's neurosurgical and trauma intensive care units.
- Ordered the hospital to keep social workers on call to ensure proper patient discharges (Los Angeles Times, 12/27).
- Suspended the director of nursing (California Healthline, 12/16/03).
King/Drew is "not dead yet, but without radical surgery, it won't get any better in 2004," a Los Angeles Times editorial states. Both the hospital and its medical school have "lurched from crisis to crisis for decades," but now, the "financially strapped" Los Angeles County should consider "pulling the plug on the hospital's alliance with Drew altogether" because its "first responsibility" to the community is to "save the hospital, not prop up a failing medical school," the editorial concludes (Los Angeles Times, 1/2).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.