Curry Medical Center in Brookings was cited 12 times for patient care violations in 2011, the most in the state, a new report indicates.
Executive Director Andrew Bair, however, isn’t overly concerned, as that data, the most recent available, was collected when the facility had just opened its doors.
“I don’t think it’s all that unusual when opening a new center,” he said of the March 2011 investigation. “Twelve really jumps out, but when you put it in the context of opening a new facility. ... They came back (last) June and said the deficiencies were corrected — and they’ve been long corrected. It’s just a part of starting business.”
The investigations are part of routine evaluations the Oregon Health Authority conducts every year. Most hospitals throughout Oregon received one to three violations in the same year. Salem hospital garnered nine violations; Mid-Columbia Medical Center in The Dalles and Legacy Emanuel in Portland received five each.
Report information is not yet available for hospitals in California, including Sutter Coast.
Citations can run the gamut — from serious health care violations such as leaving a surgical instrument inside a patient’s body to improper paperwork.
In one June 2010 Brookings case, a prescribed dosage of Valium was approximately 10 times the recommended dosage based on a patient’s body weight — in this case a 42-pound youth. That error was caught.
Another case in September 2010 involved a patient who was administered 5 mg of the antihypertensive medication Enalapril; the recommended dosage of Enalapril is 1.25 milligrams.
“Three separate ‘wrong dosage’ medication errors (occurred) between June and October 2010,” the report reads. “Although the first error occurred on June 3, 2010, under facility policy no documented quality intervention or corrective action occurred. Similar ‘wrong dosage’ medications errors by (a staff member) occurred on July 30 and Sept. 9, 2010.”
Most errors, however, were related to improper paperwork, indicating the “facility failed to maintain a clinical record that included dated signatures of the doctor or health care professional providing health care services for some patients,” a report reads.
Specifically, violations were related to illegible or nonexistent signatures on patient documentation, making it more difficult for investigations to occur, said public information officer Jack Cheevers of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which compiles information from hospitals that receive federal Medicare and Medicaid dollars.
“If we can’t read a doctor’s signature, we can’t follow up,” he said. “(Without a legible signature), they’re worthless as documents.”
He said most hospitals are quick to remedy the problems.
“We take all these violations seriously,” Cheevers said. “We’re here to protect the health and care of anyone who’s in the hospital. (A violation) is usually very bad for a hospital.”
Indeed, hospitals with repeated violations stand the chance of losing that money.
“The termination of federal funding is the ultimate penalty,” Cheevers said. “A big part of their budget is Medicaid/Medicare money. They depend on that, and can’t afford to lose it.”
Bair said turnover at the leadership level in the network has might also have led to some turmoil. But with less than six months as CEO of Curry Health Network, he is enthusiastic about even more improvements in the future.
“We’ve put systems in place and the structure to allow information to flow freely throughout the organization,” he said. “We’re making a difference. I’m excited about the potential here.”
He recognizes that most people from Brookings use Sutter Coast Hospital in Crescent City, but he feels it’s not a reflection of the quality of care offered through Curry Health Network.
“They have a more modern hospital, and appearances mean quite a bit to some people,” he said. “Their services are comparable, but our providers are very competent, and people seem to be very loyal and happy with the care they receive.”
Most hospitals, Bair said, “miss the mark on service, in the way we communicate or don’t communicate with the patient. It’s an issue of manners. Those are the kinds of things we can excel in.”
Some patients, too, worry about privacy — particularly in a small community. Bair said his staff is well aware of privacy issues and law and work hard to comply.
“Nobody’s been put in jeopardy,” Bair said. “Safety is always a concern when you’re talking about health care. It’s been a top priority and continues to be our top priority. Those who may have been dissatisfied in the past may not be dissatisfied now.”