SONOMA COUNTY: Complaint Prompts DHS Inquiry At Sutter
In an inquiry prompted by "anonymous complaints," state health inspectors have found that Santa Rosa-based Sutter Medical Center "was deficient in nurse staffing and medical record-keeping in two trauma cases last March." The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reports that the state Department of Health Services cited Sutter for: "failure to ensure adequate numbers of licensed nurses; [f]ailure to ensure that registered nurses supervised and evaluated the nursing care for each patient; [f]ailure to ensure that non-employee nurses adhere to hospital policies and procedures; and [failure] to ensure that medical records are adequately documented, promptly completed, properly filed and accessible."
House In Order?
However, Sutter officials contend that the hospital was not understaffed, although its medical records "were in disarray earlier this year." They attribute the problems to the hospital's recent efforts to change policies in its pursuit of the designation as trauma center for the North Coast. Sarah Miller, director of physician relations and communications for Sutter said, "We're raising the bar on a lot of the things we do. ... We actually got penalized because some of the new policies we want to put in place weren't followed." In response to the report, Sutter submitted a correction plan to the state DHS, and inspectors plan a follow-up visit to the facility as early as this week.
Recognizing Their Rights
Officials say complaints and subsequent investigations of health facilities are more prevalent "as health care consumers and professionals turn to the government to solve staffing and treatment questions raised by cost-cutting and managed care." Helgi Teixeira, supervisor with the state DHS said, "The public -- and nurses, too -- are more in tune with their rights and they're more willing to do what is needed to file a complaint." Sutter is the second Sonoma County hospital inspected for alleged medical care shortcomings -- Healdsburg General Hospital underwent a similar inquiry earlier this year (Lauer, 9/15).