County Opens Inquiry Into Incidents Involving King/Drew Medical Center Intensive Care Nurses
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley on Monday announced that his office has initiated a preliminary inquiry into the deaths of two patients in the intensive care unit at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center at the request of county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The investigation includes the case of a 28-year-old patient who on Oct. 7, 2004, died after a nurse allegedly silenced the alarm on his vital-signs monitor, failed to notice his fading heartbeat and falsified his medical chart by indicating that she had found his condition to be stable more than an hour after his time of death.
The other case under review involves a 47-year-old woman who on Nov. 18, 2004, died after a nurse allegedly ignored the woman's deteriorating condition throughout the day, neglected to alert doctors until the woman was in cardiac arrest, falsified records to indicate that she had properly checked the woman's vital signs and lied about adding notes to those records after the woman's death.
In a letter to Cooley, Yaroslavsky wrote, "There appears to be an atmosphere pervading this unit of the hospital that fosters unethical and unprofessional behavior, which may be leading to criminal acts as well. While the [Los Angeles County] Department of Health Services has commenced its own internal investigation, it is patently obvious that this behavior goes beyond a mere violation of medical regulations or hospital rules."
Cooley added in a statement that the inquiry could lead to a formal criminal investigation if the facts merit such a move.
County DHS Director Thomas Garthwaite said he welcomed the inquiry, adding that the actions of the nurses "clearly are outside the bounds of nursing practice and outside all the rules" (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 1/11).
In related news, NPR's "All Things Considered" on Saturday reported on King/Drew's history and current problems. The segment includes comments from Los Angeles County Supervisors Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, Don Knabe and Yaroslavsky; Assembly member Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton); and Margaret Price, chief nursing officer at Navigant Consulting (Del Barco, "All Things Considered," NPR, 1/8). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.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.