- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 28, 2003

The D.C. Department of Health has fined Greater Southeast Community Hospital $20,000 for two serious lapses in patient care, the department confirmed.

Hospital inspectors fined the hospital $10,000 for a “failure to provide care in accordance with good medical practices in a safe setting,” according to a health department source, who asked not to be named.

Health department officials also issued a second $10,000 fine for a “failure by nurses and the attending emergency-room physician to attend to a patient in a timely manner.”

Health Department Director James Buford confirmed the fines Wednesday. He said they were issued Aug. 4.

Health officials did not disclose details of how the violations occurred. Mr. Buford said only that inspectors issued the fines for violations that happened “outside of the confines of the consent agreement.”

The Health Department and Greater Southeast reached a consent agreement on Aug. 12 allowing Greater Southeast to remain open under a provisional license if the hospital improves conditions by October.

City hospital inspectors cited the deaths of six individuals in a list of deficiencies they documented at Greater Southeast since January 2002, according to a health department report.

The most recent occurred July 3, when a patient entered Greater Southeast’s emergency room complaining of abdominal pains and died seven hours later, according to a health department inspection report.

The report says hospital deficiencies contributed to the deaths of two infants in the emergency room on Jan. 27.

Deficiencies were also cited in the deaths of a patient receiving a blood transfusion on April 1, 2002; a patient who died June 24, 2002 with no intravenous infusion in place; and a patient who sought emergency-room treatment on March 22, 2003, returned two days later and died in intensive care.

In a July 18 memo documenting the deficiencies, Health Department hospital inspector Denise Pope wrote that “license denial is the appropriate action to take.”

“Many patients do not get the care or attention they require because there are not enough nurses available,” Ms. Pope wrote in a memo addressed to Mr. Buford.

Hospital officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.

However, in a prepared statement released Aug. 20, Greater Southeast administrator Joan Phillips said the hospital is working with the city to improve conditions.

“The Department of Health monitoring will assure that the hospital is providing safe patient care,” Miss Phillips said.

Administrators said they plan to release reports to the public every other Wednesday on the hospital’s progress to meet Health Department standards.

The Health Department fines were the latest of several troubling developments over the past week for Greater Southeast.

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations last week denied accreditation to the hospital after discovering deficiencies in infection control, anesthesia care, leadership and training.

The move prompted health-plan provider Aetna Inc. this week to terminate its five-year contract with Greater Southeast, just 10 weeks after officials signed the agreement.

Meanwhile, Mr. Buford has begun consulting with other D.C. hospital administrators to make plans in case Greater Southeast closes in October.


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