JCAHO Identifies Problems at Four Los Angeles County Hospitals, Considers Sanctions for Harbor-UCLA
The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations last week announced that its unscheduled inspections of four Los Angeles County hospitals in October "turned up some problems but none as severe as those at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center," which is expected to lose its JCAHO accreditation early next year, the Los Angeles Times reports (Chong, Los Angeles Times, 10/30).
JCAHO reviewers on Oct. 18 began to examine patient charts and other aspects of care at County-USC Medical Center in Boyle Heights, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center near Torrance, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar and Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey. King/Drew also was reinspected, although JCAHO previously had visited the hospital in October in response to a patient death.
The inspections came just four days after JCAHO President Dennis O'Leary sent a letter to the county Board of Supervisors blaming it for King/Drew's lapses in patient care.
O'Leary wrote, "I wish to be clear that the responsibility for these failures -- whose effect has been to place a uniquely vulnerable patient population in harm's way -- by definition lies with the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors."
O'Leary has said he supports the board's plan to close King/Drew's trauma center.
County Department of Health Services Director Thomas Garthwaite, who invited the JCAHO reviewers, said last month that he hoped the reviews would "assure the public that the things found at King/Drew are not rampant, are not a problem at our other facilities" (California Healthline, 10/19).
O'Leary on Thursday said JCAHO's inspections had revealed enough lapses in care at Harbor-UCLA to consider downgrading the facility's accreditation status. Harbor-UCLA can contest the inspectors' findings before JCAHO takes any action.
Garthwaite said administrators at Harbor-UCLA believe the inspectors reached "conclusions that were not justified by their findings."
None of the other inspected hospitals were threatened with sanctions, county officials said.
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Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.) organized a public forum on Thursday to allow community residents to hear JCAHO's explanations for its actions, including its expected removal of accreditation for King/Drew.
Millender-McDonald said she would be "in the face" of JCAHO and others who might be able to keep the facility's trauma center open and preserve its accreditation status.
O'Leary at the meeting said King/Drew "is losing ground," adding that county officials should be focused more on correcting the situation at the facility than on criticizing JCAHO actions. "Don't worry about your accreditation. Worry about fixing your hospital. Accreditation will follow," O'Leary said. "The kinds of things we identified at King/Drew caught my attention: the medication errors, the orders for blood transfusion not picked up, psychiatric patients in the emergency room for days. The [other hospitals] didn't have these kinds of problems," he added.
After the meeting, Millender-McDonald said that the results of JCAHO's inspections at the four other hospitals indicate the county board should "take note that problems lie in other than one hospital" (Los Angeles Times, 10/30).