CMS Report Criticizes Quality of Care at King/Drew Medical Center
Nurses at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center were told to lie about patients' conditions, failed to administer drugs prescribed by doctors and left critically ill patients unattended for hours, according to a CMS report, the Los Angeles Times reports. The report, which was issued Jan. 13 but has not yet been publicly released, found that "grave" staff errors led to the deaths of five King/Drew patients in 2003. The report found that the patient deaths and staff members' performances reveal the "failure of the hospital to ensure quality health care in a safe environment." According to the report, "Confidential interviews revealed that nursing staff were prohibited from assigning patients a classification of IV," the most serious level of sickness. The report found that in one shift inspected by officials, nurses were caring for four times as many patients as the state permits. Inspectors also found that King/Drew had not corrected problems it had pledged to address previously.
Los Angeles County Department of Health Services officials said that they are preparing cases to present to the district attorney's office to seek possible criminal charges against some King/Drew staff members. According to the county DHS Chief Operating Officer Fred Leaf, such charges include "intentional misrepresentation of patient conditions" (Ornstein/Weber, Los Angeles Times, 1/30). Leaf said that the department was reviewing between 20 and 25 cases of misconduct at King/Drew and that he expected to complete disciplinary action in coming weeks (AP/Fresno Bee, 1/30). Officials last Friday suspended King/Drew Assistant Nursing Director Margaret Latham without pay after suspending the hospital's nursing director without pay in December and hiring an outside firm to manage the nursing program. If problems at the hospital are not corrected, King/Drew could lose all federal funding, which accounts for about half of its $430 million yearly budget. However, Dr. Thomas Garthwaite, director of county DHS, said, "I think you will find that, once [CMS officials] see what we've done, they will be amazed at the extent to which we have taken immediate and decisive action" (Los Angeles Times, 1/30).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.