JCAHO Votes To Begin Process of Revoking King/Drew Medical Center’s Accreditation
The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations on Wednesday voted to begin the process of revoking Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center's accreditation after finding the center has "failed to correct severe lapses in patient care" since the commission's inspectors visited the facility in May, the Los Angeles Times reports. The decision is "an extremely rare step that further threatens the public hospital's survival," the Times reports.
The decision was based on JCAHO inspection reports from May, when 14 serious problems were found at King/Drew, and August, when 17 more problems were cited, including incompetence among staff, failure to prevent hospital-acquired infections, inconsistent patient care, failure to maintain medical equipment and incomplete medical charts.
JCAHO accredits nearly 4,600 U.S. hospitals -- about 80% of facilities nationwide -- and has revoked accreditation for only 11 hospitals since 1998. At least one county supervisor said losing accreditation "would ultimately lead to the hospital's closure," according to the Times.
Los Angeles County supervisors said they would appeal the decision. However, supervisors in the appeal can only argue that the inspection report was erroneous. JCAHO will not consider whether the problems cited have been fixed. "The decision will be based on where they were and what their compliance was at the date of the survey," JCAHO Vice President Joe Cappiello said.
King/Drew could reapply for accreditation if JCAHO revokes it.
Loss of accreditation would not force the hospital to close; state and federal regulators license hospitals. However, the facility could lose $14.8 million in private insurance contracts and accreditation of its physician training programs.
The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education oversees physician training programs, but its accreditation conditions specify that hospitals should have JCAHO accreditation. If King/Drew's JCAHO accreditation is revoked, the graduate program council would decide on a program-by-program basis whether JCAHO's findings negatively affect physician training.
In addition, if the hospital cannot assure government regulators that it meets their safety standards, King/Drew also risks losing $200 million annually in federal funding.
Cappiello said accreditation is important "to stay competitive, to be recognized as a safe place where quality of care is important."
Roger Peeks, King/Drew's medical director, said if the hospital loses its accreditation, "I think we could survive, but I think it would be very hard." He added that the loss would be "bad from a public relations standpoint" and would "probably take years to overcome."
In related news, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday voted to oppose the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors' proposal to close King/Drew's trauma center, saying the plan would "cost lives," the Times reports.
"We were all shocked and surprised by the sudden decision," city council member Janice Hahn said in a statement (Ornstein et al., Los Angeles Times, 9/16).
If closing the trauma center at King/Drew is "necessary to save the rest of the hospital, then it should be done," a Long Beach Press Telegram editorial states. "Critics bemoaning the probable closure ... seem to be missing an important point: The hospital is killing people," the editorial continues.
The editorial concludes, "Temporarily shutting down the entire hospital and making employees reapply for their jobs may be the only way to weed out the uncaring, thoughtless and incompetent doctors, nurses and other hospital workers at King/Drew" (Long Beach Press Telegram, 9/14).