We like to think that hospitals are clean places we go to when we’re in serious need of medical care, but at one hospital in Texas, inspectors reported numerous horrors that threaten patient health.
The Houston Chronicle reported Friday that employees at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in Houston, Texas, provided medications to patients that were not prescribed by their doctors, left objects in patients after surgery, let sewage back up into a kitchen that already contained moldy vegetables, and didn’t always disinfect transvaginal ultrasound probes between uses. Further, it was reported that staff members didn’t always follow proper procedure to ensure air did not get into the blood of patients on dialysis, and a patient died after receiving the wrong blood type during a transfusion.
“In area after area, from infection control to quality assurance, from the kitchen to the executive suite, inspectors found that hospital administrators didn’t have adequate processes in place to ensure the staff always followed safety standards and learned from serious mistakes,” the Chronicle reported.
The Texas Department of State Health Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) had been investigating the hospital for months. A final, 203-page report was provided to the hospital last month, but made public on Friday. Last year, the Chronicle and ProPublica began investigating “a high rate of deaths and complications following heart transplants at St. Luke’s,” the outlet reported.
After the Chronicle and ProPublica’s reporting, CMS stopped funding heart transplants at the hospital, the outlet reported. The hospital then hired new cardiac surgeons.
As a result of the transfusion death, three top executives — including the CEO — were replaced by the hospital’s board of directors earlier this year. CMS released a report in February that detailed numerous errors involving donated blood at St. Luke’s. This report, according to the Chronicle, prompted further review from federal inspectors.
In an open letter published to the hospital’s website, CEO Doug Lawson revealed the results of the report and pledged to continue improving the hospital. He has only been CEO for four months.
“The results point to remaining housekeeping, maintenance, and patient safety issues that in no way meet our standards, expectations or commitments to our community. We are taking seriously every opportunity for improvement and we are addressing the findings with urgency. We are confident that the next review will reflect our commitments and accomplishments,” he wrote.
We appreciate the expertise, thoroughness and professionalism of the CMS survey team during the recent review and look forward to incorporating their insights into additional steps Baylor St. Luke’s will take to ensure it will meet all requirements by CMS. Many significant improvements already have been completed across the hospital, we are confident remaining findings will be implemented in the coming weeks. We will continue to work with our leaders, physicians and CMS to achieve full regulatory compliance. We are committed to adhering to safe practices and operations – it is foundational to our organization.
The Chronicle reported on May 1 that federal regulators told St. Luke’s to submit a detailed plan to overhaul hospital policies and fix the horrors that were found or risk losing Medicare funding.