Southern California hospitals fined for noncompliance

Abbey Seltzer

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The California Department of Public Health fined 12 hospitals, two in Los Angeles, for noncompliance with licensing requirement after an assessment of the facilities on Sept. 7.

Los Angeles County + University of Southern California Medical Center was fined for failing to implement written policies and procedures for giving out medication, according to the Department of Health press release. This is the fourth administrative penalty issued to the hospital and carries a fine of $50,000.

The Brotman Medical Center in Culver City was fined $50,000 for its failure to follow its policies and procedures for fall prevention, the same press release noted. This was the hospital’s second administrative penalty.

Neither hospital were available for comment by the time of publication.

Hospitals nationwide are inspected every 18 months, usually by an outside organization that reports back to the Department of Health, said Ralph Montano, spokesman for the California Department of Health.

The organization will deem a hospital acceptable if the facility meets federal regulations and laws, but hospitals are required to self-reporte some incidents, Montano said.

If the hospital doesn’t report an incident but a person or entity complains, the assessment will also look at why the hospital did not report it, he said.

The Department of Health allows consumers to see reports and find hospitals in their area, shows any complaints and lets viewers to see a scanned copy of the original paperwork.

“From a consumer standpoint, the penalties and assessments don’t matter much,” said Dr. Brian Malec, health administration professor at CSUN. “Very few patients research their hospital. Should they? Yes. Do they? Probably not.”

But some students said they would take the assessments seriously, now that they know it exists.

“I can find better options now,” said senior construction management major Preston Jensen. “A hospital that was fined wouldn’t be my first choice.”

Hospitals have 10 days to appeal the penalties, Montano said, but he was unable to reveal if any appeals have been filed.

Penalties range from $50,000 to $75,000, depending on the severity of the infraction and how many penalties have been issued, Montano explained.

California’s Department of Health has issued 198 penalties since the program began in 2007, Montano said. Of those, 150 have been paid and the rest either went to court or were overruled.

CSUN professor Malec said large fiscal penalties may affect a hospital’s reputation more so than their bottom line.

“When adding up the number of people in and out of hospitals every day, the amount of deficiencies resulting in penalties is small,” said Malec. “Hospitals are diligent in training employees in the laws and policies but one person can make a mistake, forget to sign a form, it affects the whole hospital.”