Few Complaints Against Health Facilities Result in State Action
The majority of complaints filed against state medical facilities -- including hospitals, clinics and nursing homes -- are dismissed without action by the state Department of Public Health, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reports.
About 55% of the nearly 37,000 complaints received by DPH between March 1, 2004, and Dec. 31, 2007, were unfounded or could not be substantiated. The complaints that were authenticated generally resulted in limited enforcement action from the state.
Until a law took effect in January 2008, state inspectors were unable to levy fines against hospitals, and most facilities submitted plans to correct issues as part of the enforcement process. Inspectors can now fine hospitals up to $50,000 for causing serious injury or death.
CMS has criticized California's inspection system for hospitals and clinics, as well as its inspection system for nursing homes. CMS found that complaints are not investigated in a reasonable amount of time and that annual inspections are often late.
Jan Emerson, spokesperson for the California Hospital Association, said she thinks miscommunication between patients and hospitals' staff could be the cause for some of the problems.
"Not to discount a patient's experience, but perhaps they are not going to the right place," Emerson said, adding that hospital personnel or management who investigate patient complaints can resolve the issues (Hines, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 6/7).