DPH Offers Little Detail on Drop in Hospital Citations, Penalties
The California Department of Public Health has provided little detail about a significant drop in the number of administrative penalties and fines it has issued against hospitals for medical errors that endanger the lives of patients, Payers & Providers reports (Shinkman, Payers & Providers, 1/14).
DPH has the authority to fine hospitals as much as $100,000 per incident that puts a patient's life in danger.
According to an analysis of state data, DPH has cited fewer hospitals in recent years.
For example, DPH:
- Cited 22 hospitals and imposed $1.475 million in fines in 2015;
- Cited 39 hospitals in and imposed $3.63 million in fines in 2013; and
- Cited 58 hospitals in 2009, but information on the amount of fines was not available for that year (Shinkman, Payers & Providers, 1/7).
Meanwhile, supporting documents for some penalties issued in recent years have since been removed.
Stakeholders Stay Quiet on Drop in Citations
According to Payers & Providers, DPH Director Karen Smith declined to comment on the trend.
When asked about why fewer penalties have been levied, DPH in a statement said the agency's "first priority is to protect patient safety. [DPH] has not formally studied the relationship between issuing administrative penalties and improved patient safety."
DPH did not directly answer questions about whether hospitals appealing fines has affected the agency's enforcement actions. According to Payers & Providers, many hospitals have taken the citations to administrative court, alleging that DPH has exceeded the statute of limitations for taking enforcement action.
The agency said, "[DPH] takes enforcement action when it is appropriate and warranted."
Meanwhile, the hospital sector also has remained quiet about the issue.
Jan Emerson-Shea, vice president of external relations for the California Hospital Association, said, "We don't comment on the actions of public agencies" (Payers & Providers, 1/14).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.