King/Drew’s 1,000 Failings

Tracy Weber and Steve Hymon, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 4

The “culture of excuses and blaming” at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center is so deeply ingrained that fixing the troubled public hospital probably will take much longer than a year and cost much more than the millions of dollars Los Angeles County has committed to the effort so far, officials said Monday.

Just getting King/Drew “back to an average American hospital” will take at least a couple of years, said Dr. Thomas Garthwaite, director of the county Department of Health Services.

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Some staff were unable to competently respond to a “Code Blue” emergency call, the report states. They either never showed up or didn’t know what to do when they arrived.

Navigant also found:

• Physicians were not always available in the emergency room, many nurses lacked proper credentials, and equipment that monitors the vital signs of patients often broke down.

“Night shift staff are sleeping during their shift, and staff on all shifts are known to disappear,” the report added.

• Operating room staff failed to routinely ensure sponges and other instruments were removed from patients. Sterile and nonsterile equipment were mixed together in storage areas.

Several students from healthcare training programs were observed lingering in operating rooms without managers being able to identify who they were, what they were doing there or who was supposed to be overseeing them.

• Patient rooms in the psychiatric units were deemed unsafe despite efforts to remodel them. In some cases, the report said, “doors to closets are removable and … can be used as weapons.”

Official records listed compliance with hospital regulations “at 100%, which seems unbelievable after observing actual practice and preliminary interviews with staff,” the report noted.

• There is no process for reporting unusual deaths of patients and analyzing whether doctors or nurses made mistakes that contributed to those deaths. Nurses often did not report medication errors, the report states.

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