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UCI hospital out of compliance again

Orange County Register, 3/11/10

By Courtney Perkes
Orange County Register
March 11, 2010

Government inspectors found two cases of highest potential danger to patients.

Federal regulators visiting UC Irvine Medical Center found two cases of immediate jeopardy — the most serious finding of potential danger to patients — during an inspection last week, according to a memo sent to hospital employees.

Hospital chief executive Terry Belmont sent an e-mail late Wednesday saying the violations in medication management had been lifted that day and that no patients were harmed. He said the hospital is working aggressively to make improvements required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

"These findings must not be taken lightly," Belmont wrote. "UC Irvine Medical Center faces serious consequences if we do not immediately and permanently correct all identified deficiencies."

Belmont's memo did not explain what the medication management violations were, but he said the hospital would begin recruiting an external consulting team to help improve the pharmacy. Hospital spokesman John Murray declined to elaborate.

The report is not yet complete and findings from the survey do not become public until the hospital submits a plan of correction.

The surprise inspection was the third since July, when the California Nurses Association filed a complaint, saying that faulty narcotic pumps were a danger to patients. Inspectors found that five patients received overdoses of narcotics and sedatives because nurses were not properly trained to use pain pumps. Medicare issued a finding of immediate jeopardy, which was lifted within 24 hours after UCI began immediate training of nurses.

During a follow-up inspection in October, inspectors found more problems, including a long delay in treatment for a patient's potentially life-threatening heart condition, medication errors and breaches of patient privacy.

Last week's visit was to see if those violations were corrected. If hospitals don't comply, Medicare can pull funding government funding, a drastic measure that rarely happens.

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