Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center skipped tests, did not ensure enough nurses were on duty, report says

Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center skipped tests, did not ensure enough nurses were on duty, report says

August 10, 2011 - Star Ledger

Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center skipped pre-admission tests for several patients undergoing anesthesia, failed to provide pediatric outpatient services for low-income families, and did not ensure enough nurses were on duty, according to a report released Tuesday by the state Department of Health and Senior Services.

The state inspected the Secaucus hospital last month after an employee union complained about how the facility has been run and "threats to patient and worker safety" since a for-profit company bought it last year.

A union spokeswoman last night praised the state for its "thorough" report.

"The report absolutely reflects the concerns raised by the nurses and workers there — that patient care is being put second to profits," said Jeanne Otersen, a spokeswoman for the hospital’s 450 nurses, technicians and other workers who belong to Health Professionals and Allied Employees Local 5147. "We feel they need a monitor."

Felicia Karsos, chief nursing officer for Meadowlands, said that as result of the report she had made policy and personnel changes, including the replacement of the sterilization manager.

"The report is definitely helpful,’’ Karsos said.

While she said the hospital would "take a much closer look and do our own audit," she disagreed with the union’s call for an independent monitor.

The inspections, conducted on July 6 and 7, showed that hospital employees failed to complete pre-testing for four of the eight patients admitted for same-day pain management procedures that required anesthesia, according to the report.

Patients are given a risk category based on age, medications and diagnoses that determines the type of tests required before procedures are performed. Citing four examples, inspectors said the medical staff failed to administer an electrocardiogram — a test that measures the heart’s electrical activity — or measure glucose levels and thyroid functions for patients who had such conditions as diabetes, hypertension, or weight problems.

In addition, three of the eight pain management patients failed to properly complete consent forms before entering the operating room.

Other deficiencies include:

• Failing to provide outpatient pediatric care. When the state approved the sale of the hospital from Liberty Healthcare System to MHA, LLC, the buyers committed themselves to provide outpatient services for every one offered on an in-patient basis. State inspectors were told by an employee the hospital refers families to a federally qualified health center in Hudson County, which serves uninsured and low-income families.

• Not following sterilization procedures for reusable equipment.

• Not devising a plan to assess the number of nurses needed, and failing to publicly post how many are on duty. "The report said they do not have a proper system, which is fundamental to assuring proper nursing care," Otersen said.

Meadowlands must respond within 10 days of receiving a copy of the report with a plan outlining how the deficiencies will be corrected, a state health department spokeswoman, Donna Leusner, said.

MHA, LLC, a private investment group led by Richard Lipsky, the chief executive, bought the 230-bed hospital for $15 million.

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