KAISER: Receives Surprise Inspection At Walnut Creek
"Health inspectors paid a surprise visit to Kaiser Permanente's Walnut Creek hospital Wednesday, checking for possible violations of federal law concerning the treatment of emergency room patients," the Contra Costa Times reports. "The review [was] not a full-scale inspection of the whole hospital," but "a look at seven specific cases" that "may involve violations of a 1986 federal law called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act." The review team, comprised of three members, "wants to know if patients were assessed and treated in a timely manner based on the urgency of their conditions." The Times reports that "[i]f Kaiser is found to have violated that law in any of the seven cases, it will be required to draw up a plan to correct the problems." The hospital could also lose its Medicare funding if federal officials are not satisfied with its corrective measures. Kaiser spokesperson M.J. Watt said, "We've worked hard on this before and thought we had worked out the problems. ... If there are still deficiencies or problem areas, we want to know about them because we're committed to fixing them."
In one of the suspect cases, an 84-year-old man "died ... after waiting in the Walnut Creek emergency room for several hours before being seen by a physician." Two weeks ago, the state Department of Health Services determined that Kaiser was understaffed that day "and failed to provide timely care." As a result, Kaiser "was required to prepare a correction plan, which is now under review by the health department." The investigation, that was "prompted by an unusually high number of complaints about Kaiser Walnut Creek," represents "the fourth time in the past year that the Walnut Creek hospital has come under official scrutiny" (Appleby, 2/19).