Labs correct flaws found in inspections

Violations cited last fall at Good Samaritan, Union Memorial facilities

February 05, 2005|By Julie Bell | Julie Bell,SUN STAFF

Good Samaritan and Union Memorial hospitals have fixed problems that put their laboratories at risk of being disqualified from the Medicare program, but Maryland's top patient safety official said yesterday that both are likely to be reinspected in coming months.

"This is not unusual to get a turnaround like this," Carol Benner, director of the state's Office of Health Care Quality, said about the speed with which the labs corrected serious shortcomings discovered in the fall. "But we have to make sure it's sustained."

The corrected problems included a failure to follow up on labeling problems at Good Samaritan that put patients at risk of errors such as receiving the wrong type of blood, and the failure of Union Memorial to properly ensure the safety of transfusion recipients when the blood bank director did not review transfusion reaction records in a timely manner.

State inspectors found the violations last fall when they visited the institutions to check the work of the College of American Pathologists, a private inspection agency that had accredited both laboratories.

Inspectors returned in January, and Benner wrote to officials at the hospitals on Thursday, informing them the labs were in compliance.

More reinspections

The state and federal governments accept accreditation as evidence that laboratories are in compliance with both the law and laboratory licensing requirements.

But the state inspects a small percentage of Maryland's 171 accredited laboratories each year to make sure the private accreditation agencies are doing a good job.

The state intensified those efforts last year after finding that CAP had failed to discover serious problems - since corrected - at Maryland General Hospital's lab in downtown Baltimore.

That lab sent out hundreds of HIV and hepatitis test results despite indications they might be wrong, sparking state and federal investigations, congressional hearings and state legislation to beef up lab oversight.

Good Samaritan, with 330 beds, and Union Memorial, with 283 beds, are both members of the MedStar Health System.

Benner said both hospitals, and their parent corporation, cooperated and moved quickly to correct the problems.

Officials at both hospitals declined interview requests yesterday but provided written comments.

`Complete confidence'

"Throughout the months-long process of state inspection, we have maintained our complete confidence in the quality of our hospital's clinical laboratory," said Harrison J. Rider III, Union Memorial's president. "We are gratified that the state, as well as our patients and their physicians, recognize the consistently high quality of Union Memorial Hospital."

Good Samaritan President Lawrence M. Beck and the hospital's medical affairs vice president, Dr. Martin L. Binstock, sent a letter yesterday to board members informing them the laboratory was back in compliance.

The hospital provided a copy of the letter to The Sun.

"We are very proud of the Good Samaritan clinical laboratory team, nursing services, and the outcome of this resurvey, and appreciate MedStar's support during this process," the letter said. "Our clinical laboratory continues to operate effectively, providing the highest quality of service to our patients and physicians."

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