Md. General faces review of operations

State health officials to look beyond faulty tests

`A top to bottom review'

Three major deficiencies found at city hospital

April 23, 2004|By Walter. F. Roche Jr. | Walter. F. Roche Jr.,SUN STAFF

State health department inspectors will conduct a complete review of operations at the troubled Maryland General Hospital, looking beyond the laboratory problems that have been the recent focus of investigation.

Federal officials requested the state take this unusual step after concluding that the hospital has serious deficiencies in three areas, according to an April 5 letter made public yesterday: quality assessment, laboratory services and oversight by the hospital's governing body.

Normally, private accrediting agencies review a hospital's operations. But the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services concluded that Maryland General no longer can be presumed to meet federal requirements because of the lab problems uncovered recently.

Karen Black, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said yesterday that the review would be unannounced and done in conjunction with CMS.

Black said the action by CMS gives the state the authority to do "a top to bottom review of all aspects" of the hospital's operations.

Maryland General spokesman Lee Kennedy said the hospital welcomed the additional scrutiny and said he expected it would help restore public confidence in the facility.

He noted that the hospital filed yesterday a detailed response to a previous state survey of the lab with a plan of correction.

He said that the filing addressed each deficiency and that the hospital already had implemented many of the items, including the hiring of an outside consulting firm to oversee the laboratory operations.

Prompted by a complaint from a whistleblower, state and federal inspectors have made two visits to the west-side community hospital, an affiliate of the University of Maryland Health System.

The inspectors concluded the hospital lab was "rife with equipment failures" and issued hundreds of HIV and hepatitis test results despite instrument readings that showed the results might be inaccurate.

This week, Timothy D. Miller, the president and chief executive officer of the hospital, stepped down, along with the laboratory's medical director. The administrative director of the laboratory also has resigned.

The whistleblower, a former laboratory technician, has filed a lawsuit alleging that because of a malfunction of hospital testing equipment she became infected with HIV and hepatitis.

Kristin Turner's suit, originally filed in Baltimore Circuit Court against the hospital and the equipment manufacturer, has been transferred to federal court. Attorneys for the hospital and equipment manufacturer Adaltis USA joined in the motion to transfer the case.

Lawyers for the hospital have asked that the suit be dismissed because Turner filed for workers' compensation after the March 12, 2003, incident.

According to the court files, the hospital did not oppose her compensation claim and she was awarded $474 a week for a temporary total disability.

Hospital attorneys said that under state law Turner is barred from suing the hospital after pursuing a workers' compensation claim.

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