Study Faults Los Angeles County-USC Hospital for Delays in Care, Not Deaths
Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center is responsible for staffing shortages, overcrowding, incomplete medical charts and delays in care, according to the final 43-page report from a Department of Health Services team of inspectors, the Los Angeles Times reports. However, the report did not address charges that the delays led to patient deaths (Weber, Los Angeles Times, 5/31). In April, the team visited the hospital to investigate claims by the medical center's doctors that patients died while waiting for treatment. The inspections followed several articles in the Times earlier in the month citing statements from County-USC doctors who said four patients died because they did not receive timely care. In papers filed in federal court, the doctors said that delays in medical care because of overcrowding at the hospital have been fatal for some patients who might have survived otherwise. The seven inspectors looked into conditions in the psychiatric emergency room, laboratory and ER, as well as at patient records. They also looked into the circumstances surrounding the deaths to determine whether the incidents should have been reported to the state (California Healthline, 4/30). The investigators examined the charts of three of the patients who were said to have died because of delayed care -- the fourth case could not be identified -- and did not find that the deaths were because of long hospital waits, Lea Brooks, a DHS spokesperson, said. She added, "These people were sick. They were very sick." Much of the report concentrated on staffing shortages throughout the hospital that caused delays in patient care, including having nurses change bed linens because of a shortage of housekeeping staff and not having enough nurses to use all the hospitals' operating rooms.
"There are some issues in terms of how many nurses are available at any time. It's not a surprise. We know there are some times we have to close off beds when there's not enough nurses," Dr. David Altman, the hospital's chief medical officer, said. He added that the hospital would submit a written plan of correction for the problems cited in the report within 10 days. A report on laboratory conditions will be released separately, according to county officials (Los Angeles Times, 5/31).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.