Federal Report Lays Out Citations Against L.A. County Hospital
CMS regulators in a report released Friday cited Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital for violating the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act following a recent incident in which neglect contributed to a patient death, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Federal law requires hospitals to screen and stabilize all patients seeking emergency care. However, as reported recently by local media, a patient was left in the emergency department lobby on the floor for 45 minutes without care. The patient later died.
CMS singled out six hospital staff members in the report. Each member received a "letter of expectation" outlining how to behave differently in the future. A janitor also has been disciplined, and a triage nurse has resigned, according to the report.
The hospital in a written response to federal officials said it has taken corrective steps, including adding training for ED staff, improving methods for logging patients in the ED and posting additional signs advising patients of their right to a medical exam.
The hospital still must respond to a separate federal report that found ED patients in immediate jeopardy of harm or death.
The report, not yet released, is based in part on an incident earlier this year in which a patient was held in the King-Harbor ED for four days when he should have been transferred to another facility for treatment of a brain tumor (Ornstein/Rosenblatt, Los Angeles Times, 6/16).
Federal inspectors earlier this month said ED patients at King-Harbor were in "immediate jeopardy" of harm or death. The hospital was given until the end of June to meet minimum federal standards or lose its eligibility to participate in Medicare (California Healthline, 6/13).
Bruce Chernof, county health services director, said the letters sent to the hospital's six staff members were appropriate forms of discipline given the staff members' histories.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, sent a letter to CMS asking how officials plan to protect patients at King-Harbor. Baucus said, "There have been many prior deaths and long-standing problems, and local and state attempts to improve the hospital have failed."
Kim Belshé, secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency, said, "We are all so taken aback by the recent incidents at [King-Harbor]." She added, "It does call into question the extent to which meaningful progress has in fact been made" (Los Angeles Times, 6/16).